Birds of Prey begins with a lively and snarky animated backstory told by Harley herself featuring some of Harley Quinn’s most famous moments and costumes. After the quick recap of what she’s been up too, Harley lets the audience know that she and the Joker broke up. For the first time in a long time, Harley Quinn is now out on her own and struggling with her new found identity. The comic relief continues to shine through when the audience gets a peek into how a super villain survives a break up. Turns out that she gets through this hard time just like every other girl; with ice cream, lots of tears, spray cheese, and adopting a hyena that dismembers and eats people. While breakups are never easy, especially from a fellow super villain, she is now set with the task of finding her true identity separate from that of the Joker’s side piece. She begins to plant seeds of independence that only flourish throughout the rest of the film.
The story truly begins to develop on one of Harley’s drunken nights where she has the brilliant idea to destroy Ace Chemicals, acting as a public declaration that she and the Joker are through. The problem that Harley doesn’t quite consider is that the Joker offered her a level of protection in Gotham City. She had free reign to torture and maim anyone she wanted without any repercussions. But now that it is apparent that the Joker is no longer in the picture it becomes open season on Harley Quinn and enemies are coming for their pound of flesh.
After a series of unfortunate events of Harley attempting to outrun those hell-bent on revenge she ends up in the hands of fellow eccentric villain Roman Sionis (aka the Black Mask) played by Ewan McGregegor. To escape certain death at the hands of Roman, Harley promises to help him find his missing diamond as a hired mercenary. From here, Harley faces twists and turns involving a plethora of new characters. At this point in the film Harley is still very much hell bent on proving herself on her own, she will soon learn it will take a team of incredible women to achieve true independence.
The smartass little pick pocket played by newcomer Ella Jay Basco is looking out for herself because nobody else will. Cassandra is brought into the mix due to the fact that she steals and then consequently swallows the diamond that Roman is on the hunt for. Harley has to stick by the kid’s side and wait for the diamond to make its presence known again. The relationship formed between the two girls becomes quite unbreakable as you see Harley consider somebody’s well being besides herself.
A tough female cop with a big chip on her shoulder put there by men in the precinct always taking credit for her hard work. Renee Montoya is played effortlessly by Rosie Perez, who finds a way to deliver cheesy 80’s cop lines while still being undeniably likeable. Montoya is after the man that is after the diamond, and is looking to prove herself to her superiors. What Montoya learns is that the only person she needs to prove herself to is herself and if she wants to get things done she will have to take justice into her own hands.
Dinah Lance a.k.a Black Canary is the jazz singer turned personal driver for Roman Sionis played by Jurnee Smollet-Bell. She spends the whole movie trying to avoid conflict and trouble only to end up right in the middle of it. Dinah reluctantly becomes an informant to protect Cassandra Cain while simultaneously working for a truly sinister mob boss. In her heart she knows the right thing to do is fight against the injustice in Gotham City and she has the literal pipes to do it. Not only is she a skilled fighter but the audience gets a sneak peak at her vocal superpower towards the end of the film as well.
The Huntress has one of the bleakest backstories of the whole cast. Her affluent family was brutally murdered as a child in hopes of a crime boss taking control of Gotham City. A hitman found her amongst the dead bodies and helped her escape and brought her to live with fellow criminals. She spends her whole life training to become a skilled fighter and exacting her revenge on the people that killed her family. Making her way through the hit-list brings her to Victor Zsasz, Roman Sionis’ right hand man. Killing Zsasz brings her to the forefront of the main battle against Roman Siosis whether she likes it or not.
Towards the end of the film this ragtag group of women find themselves coming together to fight against Roman Siosis and his army to protect Cassandra Cain as well as themselves. They have let men manipulate and control them for too long and it is their turn to fight back. They don’t need the protection of someone else because they can fight for themselves and do it well!
The final fight sequence takes place in an abandoned amusement park for one of the most fun scenes I have seen in a comic book film in quite some time. The cinematography, music, comedy, and of course blood made me feel as though I was looking into the bright colored pages of a classic DC comic. There are rollerblades, twirl-a-whirls, and a hall of mirrors; not to mention the extreme level of girl power that just makes you want to yell “fuck yes!”.
We need more movies where women come together despite their differences and shortcomings to kick some major ass. Women don’t have to be the sidekick. Women don’t have to be the girlfriend. Women don’t need to be perfect. But most importantly, women can be the star of their own damn story. I left the theater with a smile on my face not only from being thoroughly entertained from start to finish, but also because things are changing. Hollywood can put out a women led comic book movie and it will succeed. While we saw this trend start with Wonder Women, Birds of Prey takes it one step father with a predominately female ensemble cast. Margot Robbie had faith in that concept and pushed to create Birds of Prey, and it paid off in a big way. I am excited to see what else we can see from strong and complicated female characters like Harley Quinn in films to come. This is the movie we needed from DC and Harley Quinn.