Say what you will about 2016’s Suicide Squad – the one thing most people could agree on with that film is that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn stole the show. Naturally, WB wanted to capitalize on that good will, and Margot knew just where to start – with an R rated female anti-hero team-up flick. Just as naturally, WB was resistant to a good idea and held off while developing three separate Harley projects. Lucky for us Margot was nothing but steadfast and persistent in her pursuit of the right Harley Quinn movie. And make no mistake – Bird of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (or as it’s already being mistakenly referred to as, Birds of Prey), is a Harley Quinn movie…featuring the Birds of Prey. But the question everyone is asking here is, does it work? I’m not only happy to say it works, but Birds of Prey may be the best and most fun DCEU movie yet! Yes, that’s right. Birds of Prey is a hilarious, brutal, and visually spastic explosion of a movie that’s anchored by a wondrous lead performance by Margot Robbie.
For those confused by the marketing for Birds of Prey (or BOP, as I will often refer to it), the story follows Harley after a break-up from the notorious Joker. Due to said break-up, Harley is no longer afforded the protection she used to have while with Mr. J, and is hunted by everyone she wronged, including and especially Ewan McGregor’s deliciously sadistic, Roman Sionis/Black Mask. Along the way she stumbles into other female bad-asses and needs to work with them to get out from under Roman’s gorgeous Gucci shoe.
To start, there are certainly shortcomings in BOP’s storytelling; however, due to the main character being Harley Quinn, they almost work in its favor. The film is tonally schizophrenic, pulling you in multiple directions at once, and is told out of sequence. It’s almost like director Cathy Yan didn’t know what kind of movie she wanted to make, so she made ALL OF THE MOVIES. While it may seem sloppy in many cases, it works well with a character that is famously insane and quite nearly enhances the experience overall. BOP is like taking a ride in Harley Quinn’s brain – it’s colorful yet dark, violent yet gentle & touching, and stylized yet strangely grounded. It also owes a huge debt to a comic book character and film that also loves R-rated violence/humor, non-linear storytelling, and breaking the fourth wall – the one, the only Deadpool. They even use the same stunt team (87eleven) for its fight choreography, which is excellent, gorgeous and brutal all at once. But is it bad to lift from a film that works so well? In this case, no, as BOP is able to put its own “Harley spin” on the format.
To no one’s surprise, Margot Robbie is still outstanding at playing the “cupid of crime,” but she also ups the ante in the action and insanity department. If Suicide Squad ‘s Harley was a pistol, BOP’s Harley is a walking glitter-covered bazooka. Where she really shines is when she’s able to play off of the other supporting characters like stand-outs, Black Canary (played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and The Huntress (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both of whom seem to be in different films, and yet, it still works. Mary Elizabeth is a heightened, gruff female assassin, while Jurnee Smollett-Bell is a no-nonsense singer/driver for Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis/Black Mask.
Speaking of Ewan, sweet mother, is he having a great time chewing the scenery in this film. He’s able to be cartoonishly devious and also genuinely creepy and scary at points. I’ve heard people call him out for being two dimensional, but I was more than pleased with what he was able to do with Roman, the son of a wealthy businessman/gangster trying to strike out and make a mark on his own. Is he anything like the Black Mask comic book character? Not really, but he works for the movie, which should be paramount. I would be remiss to not mention Chris Messina’s Victor Zsasz, Black Mask’s right-hand man/lover(?), as he is nearly just as over-the-top and entertaining as Ewan.
But what does this movie have to say? Well, as suspected, it’s more or less a female Deadpool for the #MeToo generation – and, like I said, it works. A group of wronged females band together to stand up to the spoiled, maniacal, misogynistic, rich man-child that’s found his way to a place of power without really earning it. You don’t have to dig too deep to see the metaphors, and even so, they’re not too heavy handed or at the expense of the plot or characters. Will it alienate some viewers, sure– but, why are they seeing this movie, anyways?
In the end, if you were a fan of at least Margot’s performance in Suicide Squad and wanted more of that, you won’t leave disappointed. You might even leave delighted. If you haven’t seen Suicide Squad and just want a female team-up movie that’s colorful, righteously badass, gruesome, and hilarious, Birds of Prey will do the trick just fine.
OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10 Stars
DISCLAIMER: I will also say that this movie, if you haven’t heard already, is extremely R-rated and not for young kids, so don’t bring your 8 year old unless (light spoilers) they enjoy watching faces being peeled off.