“Birds of Prey”


            You know how the halftime show at this last Super Bowl was supposed to be all about female empowerment?  Well, that would be one way to describe the edgy antics by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, but many women would argue that they don't need pole dancing, twerking, booty-shaking, and crotch-grabbing to prove that women can own their own sexuality.

            In “Birds of Prey,” we have the Super Bowl halftime show on steroids.  The outfits are all “edgy,” women act outrageously and get away with it, they overpower men in close combat, they cuss regularly, they drink to excess, and they align themselves with mobsters whom they will later rob.  Whew.  Wouldn't want to meet any of these “ladies” in a dark alley. 

            The leader is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), resplendent in pigtails and tattoes and tight jean shorts, always with too much makeup and a mischievous smile on her face.  She's just broken up from her longtime lover, The Joker, who's a madman in his own right, but she breaks the caricature with her backstory of being raised in an orphanage beaten by cruel nuns, then became a full-fledged psychiatrist before deciding it was more fun to just be crazy herself then listen to others enjoy it.  Yes, she tends toward freewheeling anarchy, which is decidedly selfish, completely enthralled with doing whatever feels good at the time, whether that's wrecking a stolen car or shooting a high-powered confetti gun in police headquarters.

            Temporarily, Harley Quinn needs to co-operate with some other women, notably the classic grizzled cop (Rosie Perez), the vengeful slain mobster's daughter (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the “Black Canary” (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who can sing, but also use her voice as a thuderous weapon?

(Well, this is comic book stuff, and we are in Gotham City.)  And the bad guy is none other than a mean-spirited, psychotic killer played by Ewan McGregor---who's a very long way from the wise Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi (in Episode One, which is really Four—oh, never mind).

            It's Harley Quinn who has the apprentice here, except that Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) is actually a street urchin, a pickpocket who would like to learn the elusive art of banditry from a skilled mentor.  The problem is that the character of Harley Quinn is hardly capable of nurturing another person, or making sacrifices herself for the sake of somebody else.  That's for all the losers out there, the ones who let other people define them.

            Well, it's a statement, all right.  It remains to be seen how empowering it will be to anyone other  than those who make the money from it.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association