When I decided to title this review “Harley Quinn Keeps The DC Streak Going” I felt like DC’s marketing team. I felt that this was the best way to attract readers even though the supporting cast received a good amount of screen time. Several complaints that I have noticed from people on social media and close family and friends was, “Who are the other women?”, “Why not market them more?”, I always answered that marketing usually promotes the best-sellers, which were Harley Quinn and Black Mask. After months of anticipation, I finally witnessed Birds of Prey and let’s say…it met my expectations.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) follows the post-breakup between Jared Leto’s Joker and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. After the 2016 Suicide Squad film, Margot Robbie returns as psycho Harley Quinn, with her ruthless disregard for morality, and deadly use of her hammer. She narrates throughout the film declaring her breakup with the Joker. You can see how much it breaks her heart. I believe this was an emotional moment for her, and believable for the audience as we all have been in relationships and had our own methods of dealing with rejection or leaving a relationship. Seeing her going through different phases was a sight to see because it created this relatable connection that continues in the movie.
We see Harley at her worst but soon she goes through the motions and shows her progression. That’s not her only problem though, word got out to the Gotham underworld that Joker and Harley are done. Now it seems that she has to atone for her crimes towards Gotham villains, in particular, Black Mask seems to also want a slice of Harley.
Roman Sionis is a sadistic crime lord known as Black Mask, he has plenty of reasons to have a grudge against Harley for all the trouble she has caused at his night club. It seems that Sionis wants to end her time on earth just because he can? Ok, I’ll go with it. Roman sends his goons to pick up Harley, and seconds before her life is taken, she cuts a deal with the devil (I mean Black Mask). If Roman lets her live, Harley will retrieve a valuable item that was taken by a teen pick-pocketer. Harley isn’t the only one trying to track down the thief.
A Gotham PD detective, an unwilling and hesitant Black Mask employee, and a vengeful bounty hunter are after this precious item as well. With the hunt on, it becomes clear that Roman is not going to let anyone escape this deal without a lot of bloodshed.
Interesting plot concept, a grounded and intimate stakes that doesn’t involve an “end of the world” villain. It’s a refresher from the blockbuster comic book films that focus more on spectacle than character sometimes. Even though the plot seems simplistic, it seems that Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan felt that the audience shouldn’t know how simple it was. With the back-and-forth “flashbacks” I can see how they were trying to do Tarantino style, but it doesn’t stick the landing as much as I thought it would.
Birds of Prey does absolutely everything right to distance itself from 2016 Suicide Squad. If Suicide Squad never existed, then Birds of Prey would still be just as enjoyable and memorable on its own legs. Is it a perfect film? No, but Birds of Prey is a solid film on all levels and ends up leaving me with a smile and enjoyment after I left the theater. Even for a spectacle that pops with lush color, big explosions, and computer effects, Birds of Prey has a way of coming off as natural in its visual flair and design.
I’ve been mentioning Harley Quinn so much, but the supporting cast also had great use of their screen time, especially later on in the film. Rosie Perez’s Rene Montoya is a cop who’s watched a lot of old-school cop shows, so she speaks in cheesy one-liners and police procedural cliches, but she never lays it on too thick. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress is as socially awkward as she is deadly and it’s a great mix of quirky and sad that kept me interested in her character. Chris Messina as Roman’s main guy, Victor Zsasz, is both terrifyingly creepy and heartbreakingly sad. Jurnee Smollett-Bell does a fantastic job as Dinah Lance, a.k.a. Black Canary.
Birds of Prey third act has this explosiveness that makes the whole film worth it. Birds of Prey is a lot of fun, bombastic, extravagant set designs and colorful attire. The plot kept it simple which allowed character development, everyone brought their A-game and you will leave the theater with a positive vibe.