Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), a recap (part 3 of 5)
Previously on Birds of Prey, Yup, Just Birds of Prey, That’s The Whole Title: Harley Quinn broke up with Joker. That’s good! But without Joker’s protection, Harley’s in the crosshairs of Roman Sionis AKA Black Mask, who wants to kill her because he’s a misogynist. That’s bad! But she has an ace in the hole to avoid summary execution: a wealthy murdered family etched a bunch of insanely valuable bank account numbers inside an unassuming, worthless diamond, and she knows where it is. That’s good! But a troubled teen has stolen and swallowed it. That’s bad! But Harley has stormed the police station to get her back. That’s good! But she didn’t kill any of the cops. That’s bad! C’mon Harley, I thought you were an anti-hero.
We catch up to the spot we left off after the flashback that comprised nearly 23% of the movie’s runtime. Harley makes a quick Suicide Squad callback and continues on her rampage.
When she gets to the cell block, she stands in front of a control console flipping switches, then when that fails, she bashes the console with her gun till the security door opens. Said smashing also causes the fire sprinklers to engage, and Harley makes a mopey face because a woman getting drenched and fighting in wet, clingy clothes is such a male-gazey thing to happen in her badass feminist flick.
Even more disappointing, Cassandra Cain happens to be in the special “People Wronged By Harley Quinn” cell block, and all the dudes in the cells start hollering at and threatening her like she’s Agent Starling going to see Hannibal Lecter. Cassandra recognizes her as “that psycho from the roller derby”. The water fouls up the machinery to the point where all the cell doors open and a harsh electropop beat portends some nasty shit. Harley disables the goons with lots of speed-ramping and an eye toward the visual possibilities of fighting in an inch of water, making sure to keep the camera nice and wide so the movie doesn’t lose Woke Points for sexualizing her body. But all her artistry distracts her long enough that Cassandra escapes.
Meanwhile, remember how Sionis gave Harley the John Wick treatment with a $500,000 bounty on Cassandra? Now heavily armed crime types are storming the police station itself, and I hope those cops Harley injured get themselves out of the way, because there’s no way these guys have Anti-Hero Powers that let them incapacitate cops without killing them. They catch up with Cassandra in a palatial evidence locker, and Harley turns up only just fast enough to usher her away from the bullets. The goons pin Harley behind a pallet stacked high with bricks of cocaine; bullets rip open some packages and the drugs go up Harley’s nose and give her Movie Cocaine Powers in addition to her Anti-Hero Powers. How’s that for adult humor? Won’t find that in an Avengers flick.
Harley selects a baseball bat from the stacks and gets to work. She does a cool bouncing trick with the bat to knock a guy out, absolutely annihilates a guy’s legs, and uses a filched lighter to set another guy’s beard on fire. It rules.
Montoya shows up, presumably indicating there are no more assassins, but Harley knocks her unconscious by kicking a cell phone into her face, grabs Cassandra, and takes off in a van with two mattresses tied to the top.
Cassandra wakes up in the van with “Some Frida Kahlo-looking asshole” (Harley’s words, not mine) shooting at Harley from a convertible behind her.
They dispatch her with a quick stick of dynamite and then Harley gives Cassandra the rundown on why there are large men trying to kidnap her. Then they stop at a supermarket to get enough laxatives to excise the diamond naturally. Harley tries to be circumspect and cuff Cassandra to her, but Cassandra escapes the handcuffs and fishes a business card out of Harley’s pocket that advertises her services as a mercenary. She asks how Harley got so big in the crime world, and Harley promises to teach her a few pointers so long as she doesn’t try to escape. They go home, settle in to a nice bowl of Froot Loops and watch some Looney Tunes. “I ain’t goin’ soft or nothing, but it was kinda nice havin’ the kid around,” says Harley in voiceover.
But that wan, mysterious stranger we saw murder some mob-arinos is back! She goes to Doc, proprietor of the Chinese restaurant that Harley lives above. Her name is…
In a mercifully short flashback, Harley narrates the life story of this stranger, who turns out to be none other than Helena Bertinelli, lost daughter to the murdered Bertinelli family (whose diamond, we should remind ourselves, is this picture’s MacGuffin). A mobster in the employ of her family’s murderers found her alive after the massacre, took pity on her, and sent her to Sicily to be raised by his father and brothers, assassins all. She trained and trained for fifteen years to become the Huntress, and now she’s killing everyone on her enemies list. The big punchline of this whole sequence is that she’s great at murdering but shit at branding; everyone calls her “the Crossbow Killer”, and she can’t get anyone to actually use the name “Huntress”.
Back at Sionis’s club, Sionis has just gotten the news that Harley and Cassandra have disappeared. In a rage, Sionis hears a woman at the other table laughing hysterically at an unrelated remark and goes over to spread some sleaze around. Black Canary watches in repulsion as Sionis’s insecurity cannot be satiated by anything less than making the woman’s date cut her dress off as she dances on the table. This is what passes for subtlety in Harley Quinn: The Motion Picture. Sionis grabs Black Canary and holds her close for comfort after this agitation. The Crossbow Killer lurks in the background, taking it all in.
At Gotham PD, Montoya meets with ADA Yee to do a scene that succinctly encapsulates every single problem with Montoya and her entire plotline. Yee is furious with Montoya for swiping a phone from the scene of Harley’s rampage and sending it to her office. Montoya says she had to do it because the text messages prove Sionis sent the goons after Cassandra—because every one of the many other dead goons in the police station either ditched their phones or deleted their texts, I guess? So thanks to this phone, there’s conclusive evidence that a notorious crime lord committed a felony leading directly to an armed assault on a police station, and probably some dead cops, but Montoya can’t get any higher-ups to even acknowledge it. This plot point would make sense if the Gotham cops were badly corrupt, as is the case in many Batman-adjacent properties, but that doesn’t enter into this movie at all; Montoya’s treatment is simply due to sexism.
The captain and Yee chide Montoya and the former suspends her, making her turn in her gun and badge. This follows something Harley’s always on about: that Montoya grew up on ’80s cop movies and is pretty much an ’80s cop stereotype. But all the cop-movie tropes are stuff that happen to Montoya, and not anyhing directly relating to her character or anything she, personally, does. Harley calls unwelcome attention to this disparity by saying, “If you’ve watched any cop movie ever you know this is where shit gets real… no cop ever gets anything done before they’re suspended.”
Back home, Harley is teaching Cassandra all about a life of crime, including not paying your taxes. (Well hey, maybe I’m a supervillain too.) Just then there comes a knock on the door, which isn’t supposed to be happening because no one is supposed to know they’re there. It’s absolutely rotten luck, because the cops are at the door, and there’s also a guy with a giant ACME slingshot in the bed of his truck down on street level, mad enough at Harley to launch a huge bomb through her window.
Harley and Cassandra both survive the explosion. They crawl out of the wreckage, somehow not meeting either the cops or the bomb launcher on their way out, and find Doc the restaurateur packing up his car. He says he’s sorry, and that he sold Harley out because he needed the money to open a good restaurant.
Mother of mercy! Is this the end of Harley? Find out next time on Bride of Joker.