Birds of Prey: The Good, The Bad, and The Gory

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was as good at Suicide Squad was horrid.

This movie follows Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after her emotionally distressing breakup from the Joker. Now alone, Quinn has to navigate life, and its consequences. Unsurprisingly, Harley quickly gets mixed up in some bad business with Roman Sionis, or Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor. The movie soon turns into the take down of another patriarchal, pseudo-Joker, super-psycho. 

Warner Bros.
Four super-females, connected by an orphan pickpocket and led by Harley Quinn, come together to take down Black Mask.

The introduction of young pickpocket Cassandra Cain is what brings the Birds of Prey together. The leading ladies are Black Canary, Cain’s neighbor; Huntress, a victim seeking revenge against Sionis; Detective Renee Montoya, following a lead; and Harley Quinn, following Sionis’ orders in order to avoid death, all eventually come together to save Cain from the grasp of Sionis and his minions. 

Throughout the film, it is interesting to watch Harley’s former psychiatric background come into play, as she sprinkled diagnoses in her speech to taunt or aggravate her tormentors. It is also interesting that throughout the movie, Cain and Quinn form a twisted mother-daughter bond, as both find themselves while finding each other. 

This movie juxtaposes Harley Quinn’s candy-coated playfulness with some serious gore, which to many fans delight, is straight out of the comic books. These gruesome scenes were contrasted with flashy, neon surroundings reminiscent of a Barbie commercial. The directors were constantly overlaying mind-melting pop-art over gritty urban realism, brilliantly representing Harley Quinn’s manic state and her disheartening surroundings.

Warner Bros. 
Joined only by her beloved hyena Bruce, Harley lives above her favorite Chinese restaurant.

This movie is funny. Though it doesn’t seem like the type to make you laugh, Harley’s natural “comedy” (essentially mania) shines through constantly, in spite of every life-threatening situation she finds herself in. 

She first begins the movie by narration, but being Harley, the timeline gets a little mixed up in her retelling. So, at times, she has to review, explain some backstory, or give viewers an idea as to when events were actually occurring. Still, the timeline is not confusing and her narration is a great way to follow the story. 

While this was a great movie, it featured superfluous gore and drug use, which merited it’s R-rating. Harley’s 21st century testimony to female independence surprisingly included no appearance from ‘Mistah J’ himself. And though McGregor’s portrayal of Black Mask is equally disturbing and fascinating, Sionis is an odd villain for Harley’s first movie, and the film would have made more sense in the DC comic universe if the Joker had been the antagonist. 

Some details, including Harley’s taxidermied beaver, were not given much explanation throughout the film. Birds of Prey seems to have been created for fans of the comic books themselves, as little explanation was given to Harley’s quirks. It seems directors expected fans to already know most of her backstory. 

If comic book Harley Quinn is your favorite – this movie is not for you. The “emancipation” of our beloved Harley in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) leads to the birth of a brand new, outrageously empowered, wickedly feminist anti-hero.