The Joke’s On Us
Tripwire’s senior editor Andrew Colman takes a look at Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn, out in cinemas from today…
Birds Of Prey And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn
Director: Cathy Yan
Stars: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Julie Smollett-Bell, Ewan MacGregor, Rosie Perez
DC’s sequel to Suicide Squad, co-produced by star actress and playa Margot Robbie, wastes no time in declaring its remit – this is a movie that dispenses with things like subtext, characterization, drama or depth, and does so with alacrity. Of course, it has its antecedents – Kick Ass, and of course Deadpool, both films sharing a type of smug, in-your-face humour which is occasionally clever but are strictly one-note as a result. Birds of Prey on the other hand has only one attribute to offer – lowering the bar while pandering to a younger demographic through extreme and fairly constant ultraviolence and a mind-numbingly intrusive soundtrack. Granted, this film is certainly not aimed at someone like me, but the countless young fans who are only concerned with how “badass” all the protagonists are, and how much baddie cannon fodder they squish or eviscerate. Yes, female empowerment and bashing blokes to smithereens is what this movie is all about, but that doesn’t make the work interesting, especially with such a dreadful script.
Okay, the plot. Harley Quinn (Robbie) breaks up with the Joker, leading her to destroy a lot of buildings and stuff. She goes into a bar owned by mob boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor, oddly miscast), wreaks havoc, gets drunk, and then is saved from a beating by Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Meanwhile Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is on Harley’s tail. A young pickpocket called Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) steals an expensive diamond from Sionis’s deranged assistant, Zsasz (Chris Messina). Sionis gives Harley a day to recover the diamond, and that more or less covers it. There’s also the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in the mix – a crossbow wielding assassin who is after Sionis and the rest of the baddies cause her family got brutally murdered in flashback and she wants revenge!
This film is essentially one continuous mass killing or beating after another, all to the rhythm of immersive (because it’s so bloody loud) videogame music. Robbie mugs, gurns, skips, preens and is smugness made flesh in front of the camera – she’s the good guy cause she isn’t evil, as such, just playfully murderous in a jolly, dated, girl-child sort of way. And then there’s her trite yet psychotic narration (aargh!!) – this is a cartoon that blends Josie and the Pussycats, Sucker Punch, Terence Hill and Bud Spencer flicks, Ren and Stimpy, Tank Girl and a particularly gruesome Death Wish sequel. There’s zero empathy in this hollow load of white noise, the clown car of the ladies and their goon malefactors beating you about the brain with their self-indulgence, occasionally pausing for breath to show you what an utter turd Sionis is (torture, face removal, generally arsing about like a pantomime dame, killing folks for a laugh, etc.) – in other words, not much different to Harley and her chums.
There’s the very, very occasional moment which editorialises, such as when Montoya is thwarted by the glass ceiling of police hierarchy (patriarchy?), or when Sionis viciously humiliates a woman patron of his club. But both those vignettes seem to have been shoehorned in from another movie, almost as if the producers forgot about character development, context, and foreshadowing and shit. Well, never mind. The movie wants its cake and eats it, over and over again, in what is a towering heap of infantile cynical sludge. There are plot holes as well, but it’s not like they matter when there’s dismemberment afoot. Girls will be girls, and if they wanna party by stamping on folks’ heads they are entitled to do so. If only they’d bothered to send up that point or be ironic about it, but of course they don’t. In a way it’s this ludicrous identity politics and sledgehammer inversion that stops the film from being witty or funny. But, as I mentioned at the top of this diatribe, that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s the girls handing out the ass-whuppings, and that is all. Furthermore, at no juncture in the proceedings do any of them look as if they are in danger either, which sort of negates any vestige of tension or suspense, which again is the point. And that, I assume, is entertainment!!
And the fanboys and girls across chatrooms, blogs, FB and Insty will praise and obsess over this tawdry exercise in bar-lowering to the hilt, guaranteeing box office and further sequels. If only I didn’t have to sit through all of them. Right, I’m off to yell at some clouds.