I’ve been a fan of Harley Quinn since she debuted in Batman: The Animated Series back in the early ’90s. Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see Harley make her big-screen debut in 2016’s Suicide Squad. While that film is overall a pretty mixed bag, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is one of the films strongest elements. I was super excited when it was announced that Harley Quinn would return in Birds of Prey and would be joined by Huntress, Black Canary, and Renee Montoya. I have been anxiously awaiting its release, so much so that I had to go and see it on opening weekend. Was Birds of Prey the goose that laid the golden egg or did it turn out to be a lame duck? Read on to find out.
Birds of Prey is the latest film in the DCEU. The film was directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs 2018) and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee 2018). The film stars Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad 2016), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane 2016), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (True Blood TV Series), Rosie Perez (The Dead Don’t Die 2019), Chris Messina (Devil 2010), Ella Jay Basco, and Ewan McGregor (Doctor Sleep 2019).
A twisted tale told by Harley Quinn herself, when Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis, and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.
Birds of Prey is a significant improvement over its predecessor. The film benefits greatly from its R-rating, allowing the film to have to pretty brutal and at times graphic fight scenes and kills as well as a dark and twisted sense of humor which works pretty well. However, it takes a while for the film to find its groove. The first 20 minutes is pretty bad, and not in a so bad its good way. There’s lots of narration, the humor is cringeworthy and it just takes a little too long to set up the story, but once it gets going, it’s a lot of fun.
The cast throws themselves into their respective roles with reckless abandon. Margot Robbie is excellent as Harley Quinn. She’s just as badass as ever but a little more vulnerable and damaged. Harley is trying to remember how to be a decent person after years of following the Jokers lead. Don’t take that to mean Harley is all serious, she is still hilarious, tons of fun and has a homicidal mean streak. She isn’t someone you want to fuck with. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as Huntress and does the character justice. She’s out for vengeance and tends to be a little hot-tempered but given what she has been through its understandable. Surprisingly, Huntress brings a lot of humor in the final act and it was nice to see Mary Elizabeth Winstead tackle a role with some comedy again as I think its something she does a good job at. Unfortunately she isn’t given much to do till the final half-hour. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is an actress I’m not too familiar with but I really enjoyed her as Black Canary. Her back and forth when she meets Harley is gold and I love how she isn’t afraid to put Harley in her place. Her fighting style is pretty epic as was the portrayal of her powers.
Rosie Perez is someone I have kinda crushed on since I saw her in White Men Can’t Jump when I was a kid. That hasn’t changed. Rosie is phenomenal as Renee Montoya. Montoya is damn near fearless, going toe to toe with armed heavies with little to no regard for her own safety and with a good sense of humor about it. Ella Jay Basco did a good job as Cassandra Cain. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wish the character was a little closer to the comic but I thought Ella did a solid job with the character given how it was written. I enjoyed her relationship with Harley and felt it gave the movie some heart. Chris Messina was solid as Victor Zsasz, unfortunately, his demented serial killer is relegated to a lackey for McGregor’s Black Mask and he really isn’t given a chance to cut loose. Ewan McGregor steals the show in his scenes as Roman Sionis/Black Mask. He doesn’t care for anyone but himself, is a massive narcissist and sees himself as morally superior when he’s really just a massive pretentious douchebag. It was fun getting to see McGregor cut loose and play such a scumbag. Overall I really enjoy the film, I just wish some of the supporting characters were a bit better developed and stuck a little closer to their comic book roots.
While Birds of Prey marks a distinct improvement over its predecessor, it’s still a flawed beast. The supporting cast alternates between underutilized and underdeveloped thought the cast gives it their all and portray their roles well. That being said once the film gets going its brutal, bloody and fun with a ton more heart than I expected. If you’re a fan of Harley or any of the other characters in this film, Birds of Prey is a must-watch. Just know its not a perfect film, though its heart is in the right place and it gets more right than it does wrong.