'Suicide Squad' was a mess, a failure, and a disappointment - but if one thing that shined through was Harley firkin' Quinn. Margot Robbie ('Once Upon a Time in Hollywood', 'Mary Queen of Scots') tried her best and walked off with some charm, and despise that film I felt that Robbie as Quinn was something I needed more of - and thankfully, we have been blessed with the magical 'Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)'.
Harleen Quinzel has broken up with Mr J in one of her emotional drunk nights out, and comes up with a brilliant plan to announce their breakup to the world by blowing up Ace Chemicals, the place where the Joker turned her into Harley Quinn. This very public announcement leads her to learn that without the safety of the Joker, a lot of people want her dead - and none more so than Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor, 'Doctor Sleep', 'Christopher Robin'). After pickpocketer Cassandra Cain steals a diamond with the account number embedded inside of a famous crime family, Cain has a bounty on her head from Sionis, leading her directly into Quinn's path and the soon-to-be-formed Birds of Prey.
My excitement for this film couldn't have been higher. I'm a sucker for badass women kicking butt, and add to that my love for the character and colourful ascetic. I'm proud to say this film shines; it works on every level. With DC coming off the good heels of 'Aquaman' and 'Shazam!', 'Birds of Prey' pushes them into a whole new field - it's hard to pick between this and 'Wonder Woman' for my favourite superhero film of all time (yeah, that's right, no Marvel for top spot).
Of course, a film like this does have an empowering woman edge, but it never panders as some films have recently. The film accepts that yes these are badass women, kicking men's asses, but who cares - we're going to have fun! This leads to some really enjoyable and cute moments, like Harley giving Black Canary a hair tie during the final fight. The film is filled with small, subtle moments like this that elevates it a whole new level.
Robbie finally gets to fully embody Quinn and all her madness - she is hilarious but never annoying. A character like Harley is easy to mess up, but here they are really smart about when to let go and when to pull her back. She is not just T and A; the film remembers that she is a psychologist and a very smart person who's just a little crazy at times. You just don't want to ruin her egg sandwich or she will kill you.
The rest of the 'Birds of Prey' also are a fantastic group. We have The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 'Gemini Man', '10 Cloverfield Lane'), a crossbow killer who is avenging her past. While she has the least amount of screen time, she actually has some of the more comedic parts of the film. Her awkwardness and attempt to be brutish really work; in every action scene, she's ruthless and badass. Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, TV's 'Friday Night Lights') works at Roman Sionis' club as a singer - she has a killer voice (I don't want to spoil much, but there is a moment in the big final fight that is so epic and crazy I wanted to scream in delight), and oddly enough she would be the straight man out of the bunch as while she kicks ass she has the least comedic moments. Rounding out the Birds of Prey is Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez, 'The Dead Don't Die', 'Pitch Perfect 2'), a detective who was working on a case involving Roman and his men. I was the most excited for her as I'm a sucker for an "older" woman being a badass, and they really use her fantastically in those scenes.
The final action scene with all the Birds of Prey has one of the best-choreographed scenes - it also has one of those perfect 'Avengers'-style team-up shots that gives me chills every time I see it.
A lot of the action scenes are filled with so much colour and vibrance, and the soundtrack also reflects this (Doja Cat's 'Boss Bitch' will be a personal anthem after this film). The final action scene with all the Birds of Prey has one of the best-choreographed scenes - the way they all help each other and bounce off their team members is so exciting to watch. The scene also has one of those perfect 'Avengers'-style team-up shots that gives me chills every time I see it.
If I haven't made it clear, I freaking love this movie - but that's not to say there are some negatives. While fun, the storytelling gets a little muddled. Being told by Harley, we get a lot of going back and forth to introduce new people and see their sides. This really only impacts the middle of the film; we are in the midst of a big colourful action scene in a police station and then we cut back for 10 minutes on a new character before returning to the action. It plays with the energy at times, but the movie always picks itself back up in a matter of minutes; it just could have been tighter. I was excited to see Ali Wong (Netflix's 'Always be My Maybe', 'Onward') in the film, but she has a role that doesn't utilise her talents well. She plays Montoya's ex-girlfriend but she's very uptight and there's no comedy between these two characters - it just seems to be a strange role to put Wong in. This isn't a negative for me, but the way the film handles 'Suicide Squad' and Jared Leto may not sit well with some. From the opening animated sequence, it's clear they are trying to forget all of that, with the Joker appearing in more a classic suit while animated Quinn reflects her outfit from 'Suicide Squad'. The film only ever shows the scene where Harley falls into the acid and it always cuts around Leto, which I found hilarious. We get one quick new scene with the Joker, but it's a stunt double and we only ever see his green hair from behind.
I'm a sucker for movie parallels, and this movie has two great ones. First, we get a Marylin Monroe homage with Harley singing 'Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend' in the iconic pink dress. In the scene, we see her as Monroe and dances with Roman - who is played by McGregor, who is in 'Moulin Rouge', which also features that song... incredible. But the next one is the cherry on top of the cake: in 'I, Tonya', Robbie ice skates to 'Barracuda'. 'Birds of Prey' one-ups that and has her rollerblade to it, and to quote Lady Gaga: "Talented, Brilliant, Amazing, Show-Stopping, Never Been Done Before."
One last thing - Ewan McGregor is a perfectly terrifying horny villain, along with his sidekick Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina, 'Argo', TV's 'The Mindy Project'), who is terribly sexy with his blonde hair. While they might not be the top of superhero villains, they are fun pair who do get quite frightening at times, in between their sexual chemistry.
'Birds of Prey' its absolute thrill ride. It's unapologetically fun and crude and violent. To quote Saoirse Ronan from 'Little Woman'... "Women."