“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is wild, uproarious, and, above all, exhilarating. Cheerfully and irreverently bouncing along with its loony anti-heroine and several other strong, colorful female characters, the movie constantly tickles and excites us via a number of inspired moments to be savored and appreciated, and the result is one of the better products from the DC Extended Universe.
The story opens with the animation prologue scene which gives us a brief but succinct summary of the rocky life and career of Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Despite her poor and miserable childhood years in Gotham City, Harley eventually grew up to become a promising young psychiatrist, but, alas, she came to fall in love with a certain notorious criminal figure at an asylum where she happened to work, and she willingly threw herself in madness and crime as helping her insane lover escape from the asylum and then becoming his partner-in-crime during next several years. Despite going through a number of pretty rough moments as shown in “Suicide Squad” (2016), she remained romantically attached to her man during that period, but then there comes a point where she cannot stand his vicious and abusive aspects anymore, so she decides to end her relationship with him once for all.
However, Harley is not particularly willing to announce this breakup to those denizens of the underworld of Gotham City because she wants to continue to have her own crazy fun and excitement as usual. Nobody wants to mess with her because they are afraid of any possible retaliation from that criminal figure who has been closely associated with her, so she keeps pretending that she is still in a relationship with him as before, and her wild nights are continued as usual.
Nevertheless, as trying to move onto the next chapter of her criminal life, Harley soon becomes bored and frustrated. She manages to find her own small but cozy private place where she begins to live with an predatory animal pet she happens to acquire, but she still feels something unresolved and unventilated inside her, and then, of course, there soon comes a moment when she comes across a golden opportunity for closure and liberation by chance and then goes all the way without any hesitation at all.
While she surely gets a big dramatic moment of elevation as a result, the consequences of her impulsive action come upon her far earlier than expected. Now everyone in the town knows that Harley is no longer under the protection of her ex-boyfriend, and she soon finds herself targeted by many different criminals just like Keanu Reeves in “Jock Wick” (2014) and its two sequels.
And then things subsequently become more complicated when she gets seriously involved with Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a mean, ambitious, and self-absorbed crime lord who is about to obtain an important object which will enable him to become the most powerful criminal figure in the town. When that object in question happens to be snatched at the last minute, Sionis is quite enraged to say the least, and Harley has no choice but to follow his demand as being threatened by him and his brutal henchmen including Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), who is ready to utilize his particular set of skills at any moment.
In the meanwhile, the plot thickens as several other main characters enter the picture one by one. Besides a seasoned but strong-willed female cop who is determined to arrest Harley in addition to bringing down Sionis, there are 1) an exceptional lady singer working in Sionis’ bar, 2) a mysterious female figure armed with a lethal crossbow, and 3) a young but artful pickpocket girl who happens to be right in the middle of the situation.
While it will not be much a spoiler to tell you that Harley and other main female characters eventually come to band together against Sionis and his henchman, the movie often surprises as ecstatically jumping among comedy, drama, and action, and the screenplay by Christina Hodson also throws some sincere moments of female solidarity into its boldly pulpy narrative. Although I must point out that the story becomes more predictable during the last act, director Cathy Yan enthralls us with a series of terrific physical action scenes which feel visceral and impactful while also fully packed with humor, style, and thrill, and she certainly demonstrates here that she is a skillful action movie director as good as, say, Patty Jenkins.
Under Yan’s competent direction, the main cast members of the film function well in their respective parts. As Margot Robbie, who was incidentally the saving grace of “Suicide Squad”, gleefully holds the center with her vibrant mix of charm and lunacy, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, and Ella Jay Basco hold each own place well around Robbie, and Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina look menacing and loathsome as required while never overshadowing Robbie and other ladies in the film.
Overall, “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is as fantabulous as intended in addition to being a vast improvement compared to “Suicide Squad”, which was the lowest point of the DC Extended Universe along with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016). I do not know whether we will soon see the next naughty adventure of Harley Quinn, but, seriously, I am already looking forward to that right now.