Part Harley Quinn solo spin-off, part Suicide Squad sequel, Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn (to give it its full and asthma-inducing title) sees Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn freshly out of a long-term relationship with an off-camera Clown Prince of Crime. She’s out to claim her independence and ends up doing so by going on an adventure of her own. And she’s not alone, as her quest to fend off most of Gotham’s underworld – who are out to get her now her Joker-dating immunity has been revoked – will lead her to cross paths with some women with attitude: deadly Castafiore Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), 1980s detective parody Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), crossbow-wielding vigilante Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and young pickpocketing scamp Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).
Like its title, it’s a messy and hyperactive movie that works as a colourful comic book adaptation and passes the time as a chaotic romp. Written and directed by two women – still a depressing rarity when it comes to blockbusters – screenwriter Christina Hodson and director Cathy Yan have clearly taken notice of the Merc with a Mouth’s surprise box-office success in 2016. Indeed, if Suicide Squad desperately aimed to ape Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, Birds Of Prey is DC’s bid to emulate Deadpool. From the timeline jumps, snarky quips, fourth-wall-breaks and even a borderline copy-paste post-credit stinger, this walks in the shadow of Deadpool in a big way. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, as the humour works (one Frida Kahlo gag is priceless), but it does feel like a slightly uninspired re-tread.
What makes the film consistently watchable though is Robbie’s lead performance, a euphorically quirky turn that is matched by some equally vibrant set-pieces and the fantastically choreographed fight sequences that populate them. Courtesy of John Wick’s Chad Staheski and his stunt team 87Eleven, the action is this film’s main draw. So, while it is in no way fantabulous, it assures that the prospect of a Birds Of Prey 2: Cockatoo Boogaloo© doesn’t feel like the worst idea ever.
Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn | Directed by Cathy Yan (US, 2020) with Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco. Starts Feb 6.
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