Runtime: 1h 49m
Director: Cathy Yan
Writers: Christina Hodson
Stars: Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollett, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina
By Zofia Wijaszka
Since “Birds of Prey” premiered in February, a lot has changed in our lives. The DC film directed by Cathy Yan is packed with action, unusual twists, and chaotic narrative of one Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Accidentally, it was one of my last movies that I’ve watched in the cinema. I’m also not ashamed to say that I’ve seen this film around fifteen times since it came out. Amazing fight scenes, Harley’s gymnastic skills, and a diverse, empowering cast makes it a perfect watch for In Their Own League’s Women in Action month.
Let’s start from the beginning. Harley and Joker break up. Without his protection, the main character needs to face everybody whom she did wrong in the past. In her search for emancipation and empowerment, she realizes that she’s not the only woman who’s tired of men trying to rule her world. When Casandra “Cas” Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a teenager pickpocket, steals a very expensive diamond that is highly wanted by a known Gotham City mob, Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), the paths of the four women unexpectedly intertwine. Harley is among them, but so is Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), an underappreciated policeman, Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett) – Roman’s chauffeur, and the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Her identity is a secret until Montoya recognizes her as Helena Bartinelli, the only living member of Bartinelli family (who was killed by Sionis’ order). The crazy chase for diamond commences with a flourish.
“Birds of Prey” is a crazy roller coaster (thanks to Harley, of course). It’s a film packed with action, glitter bombs, and broken limbs, but not only. It’s also a tale about the immense power of women and their unity. “Birds of Prey” is certified “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and is highly popular among female audience. It’s also the second DC film with Robbie reprising a role of a former psychiatrist, yet the first where Harleen receives an entire picture for herself and becomes a full-fledged, complex character. “Birds of Prey” also finally establishes anti-heroine’s bisexuality. Together with DC’s adult cartoon, “Harley Quinn,” it truly is the year of this twisted yet such an intriguing character.
The chaotic plot narrated by Quinn (who often breaks the fourth wall and dazzles the audience) is well-crafted and entertaining. But what makes it even more exciting are multiple fighting sequences and phenomenal stunts.
The chaotic plot narrated by Quinn (who often breaks the fourth wall and dazzles the audience) is well-crafted and entertaining. But what makes it even more exciting are multiple fighting sequences and phenomenal stunts. Jon Valera and Jonathan Eusebio visualized action scenes. But to achieve the excellence we all could experience, Cathy Yan received assistance from a man who’s not a stranger in visually breathtaking battle scenes. The man’s name is Chad Stahelski. This stuntman-turned-director co-created “John Wick,” and then took charge of the rest of the franchise. If you only watched Keanu Reeves as a killing machine in revenge for his dog, you know what I’m talking about. Stahelski helped Yan with imagining her vision and assisted the director while filming the most crucial action scenes.
One of the first fight scenes the audience has a pleasure to see is Harley at the police station. With the help of her gag gun loaded with glitter bombs and inseparable companion, a metal bat, the main character showcases not only a brutal nimbleness but also her gymnastic skills. “Run, piggy, run!”, she exclaims before firing a bunch of glitter at policeman’s bottom, spiraling him into the air. In the haze of blue and pink mist, Harley cackles and then takes on another bunch of Gotham City PD cops. In the spectacular showdown, Robbie’s character has to face multiple criminals that she once put in jail with Joker. In the astounding spectacle of harmonized gymnastic sequences and fight moves, Quinn takes one guy after another, breaking limbs or burning beards. At some point, she even goes ahead and does a whole flip in the air. All that while chasing Cassandra around the police station. The experience of this sequence is further enhanced with water play (at one point, the fire alarm activates the ceiling sprinklers).
Harley is not the only one who gives a spectacular performance. When Black Canary leaves Roman’s bar, she’s faced with a choice: she either ignores two men kidnapping intoxicated Harley or she turns out to be a supporting woman who helps fellow females. She picks the latter and frees Harley from two men. While trying to balance the anti-heroine who barely stands on her own feet, Dinah strikes one punch after another. The character twists her body and measures strong kicks (one of them flies the bad guy through the car window). Together with her voice, Black Canary turns out to be basically invincible.
Said voice saves the day in the final battle where hoards of Roman’s helpers appear at the abandon entertainment park to kidnap Cas and hand her over to Roman (let’s remember that the diamond she stole is in her stomach now). All plot lines intertwine in this visually-pleasing chain of scenes, and a delightful climax commences. Armed with whatever weapons they can find (including Renee’s burgundy corset borrowed from Quinn), the protagonists face the men, swearing Cassandra’s protection. While Barracuda by Heart reverberates, the heroines deliver fatal blows, kicks, and wounds, hurting and breaking any enemy that stands in their way. Every female possesses their attributes (as so it happens in superhero films): the Huntress fights with the help of her killer Crossbow, Renee uses brass knuckles, delivering bloody punches. Harley has her skates (yup, skates) and the mallet while Black Canary uses whatever in her reach.
“Birds of Prey” is one of those movies where we realize the great significance of seemingly ordinary items, like a hair tie. In the midst of an intense battle, Black Canary’s long hair obstructs her vision. Suddenly, Harley quickly appears with a hair tie in her hand. Dinah instantly grabs it and continues the fight. It’s a small moment, but the scene became one of the most popular in the film because many women can strongly relate to this moment.
Battle quickly escalates and moves to the pier. But before that, the audience is gifted with one of the best chases in the movie. It’s where Harley’s skates perform in the main and most crucial role. With the Huntress and her motorcycle’s help, Quinn catches up to Roman, who kidnapped Cassandra. In one of the best moments, the Huntress whips Harley, and the character lands in front of Roman’s car. Operating with her skates, Quinn does an extraordinary slow-motion back-flip on top of the vehicle. Already there, the character manages to beat up Roman’s minions in the front seat.
Battle quickly escalates and moves to the pier. But before that, the audience is gifted with one of the best chases in the movie.
Harley and the rest of the group manage to rescue Cassandra. But not before the amazing spectacle of Roman’s limbs being blown up with the help a teenager who stole Harley’s grenade. All characters look down to see his fallout.
And what’s the best thing to do after the battle as such? Tacos and margaritas!
“Birds of Prey” was praised for its amazing stunts and fight scenes. No wonder. Together with Harley’s narrative, an incredible cast of women, and one hyena named Bruce, the film by Yan becomes a movie that you can watch over and over and never get bored. Hilarious lines never disappoint and the immense importance of a hair tie is finally established.