Harley Quinn and Joker have broken up. No longer under the protection of the Clown Prince of Crime, Quinn must fend for herself against the many people who suddenly want to kill her, one of those people being the crime lord of Gotham, Roman Sionis. To save her own skin, she must find an invaluable diamond for Sionis, but she isn’t the only one with an eye on the prize.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise messy Suicide Squad film which came out in 2016. Fast forward four years later, and she gets a film all to herself. No Will Smith as Deadshot, no Jared Leto as Joker, just Margot Robbie as Harley Freakin’ Quinn where she continues to solidify herself as the face of the character the same way Jackman did with Wolverine or Downey Jr. did with Iron Man. Robbie truly does flourish in the role, and demonstrates a complete understanding of the loveable psycho that is Harley Quinn. Being the Batman fan that I am, I am more than pleased.
The title of the film may contain Birds of Prey, hinting at a film where a group of female bad-asses team up to fight the bad guy, but it’s important not to forget what’s in the parentheses, And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn; the film is very much centered on its most popular protagonist, if you could call her that. Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress all put solid work into their respective roles, but their characters are never given the spotlight in a way to let them shine. Birds of Prey suffers from the same rushed character introductions that have plagued the DCEU for years. This unfortunate lack of character development makes it difficult to ever care for the characters themselves. The script as a whole I would say is hit or miss. However, I will admit, a flamboyantly erratic Ewan McGregor as Black Mask is sure as hell fun to watch.
Where Birds of Prey truly shines, is in its expressive personality and fight choreography. As the film is told from the unreliable point of view of Harley Quinn, the cinematography is filtered through a lens of bubblegum surrealism, and frames are consistently filled with bright colors and confetti. The costume and makeup design only further reinforce this aspect of the film’s identity. With the help of fight and stunt coordinators Jon Valera and Jonathan Eusebio, and the added bonus of the John Wick director himself, Chad Stahelski, Birds of Prey is a skillfully executed action film. The hand-to-hand combat sequences, already bolstered by the film’s R-rating, are cleanly done and interesting, as Margot Robbie and the gang kick through another set of baddies. Birds of Prey, for the most part, nails it on the head in terms of the comic book aspect of the film.
Birds of Prey is a film that sacrifices story for eccentrics, but I hesitate to classify it as style over substance; the feminist message is consistently bold and obvious. This is a film where the female characters stand tall and fight their own battles. Birds of Prey is an improvement over Suicide Squad, but only marginally. 7/10