The independent London newspaper

Sleazy does it… or rather doesn’t

06 February, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Margot Robbie in Birds of Prey etc etc…

Directed by Cathy Yan
Certificate 15

KUNG Fu high-kicking DC comics heroine Harley Quinn returns for an adventure set in Gotham’s grimy streets – and in this instalment, the baseball bat-wielding character has a host of bad people on her trail, out to get revenge for her many misdemeanours.

We learn she has broken up with her fella, The Joker, and without his protection every Gotham City thug wants to exact a painful revenge.

Evil baddie Roman (Ewan McGregor) is on her case too – while also attempting to wipe out rival gangsters and take over all of Gotham.

He discovers that a rare diamond with a series of hidden off-shore bank accounts etched into it is knocking about – making it more than just a pretty sparkler.

Meanwhile, Harley (Margot Robbie, revelling in the role) is off on a bender to drown her sorrows. Harley, fans will know, is the former psychiatrist at the asylum The Joker was held – before she fell for the Clown Prince of Gotham criminals. Now this lovelorn killer not only needs to fend off various hoodlums but nurse her broken heart…

Side stories abound, focusing on pickpocket Cass (Ella Jay Basco), who comes across the diamond, tough cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and is fed up with her good detective work being claimed by male officers; and then the mysterious Crossbow Killer aka The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is on a mission all of her own. Add to the mix a character called The Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and you have your A Team of spandex-clad women thumping men where it hurts.

Packed with action sequences and acrobatically choreographed fight scenes, the requisite oddballs and a plot that builds up to a straightforward climax, this feels like film-making by numbers. It isn’t so much that it is a bad movie, just not one that stands out: you could slip a reel of the first Harley Quinn adventure into the projector at the midway point and you’d be hard pressed to notice.

The idea that because there is the word emancipation in its title means it is a sign of a post-#metoo Hollywood feels silly.

Just because it has four women in lead roles beating up men doesn’t make this film a bastion of progressive thinking.

It feels like something a sleazy casting coach director might create: the impractical outfits shout “male/studio complex”.

But the biggest downside is it lacks originality. It feels like a freshened-up pastiche of the average elements needed to make an average superhero film – traumatised victim gaining revenge, the plods getting shown up, whacky set designs… all cobbled together for a telegraphed climax.

If Quinn is meant to be some kind of modern suffragette, we need to rewind and consider what emancipation really means.


Share this story

Post a comment