Friday, February 7

Birds of Prey Review

Birds of Prey
Dir: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, and Ewan McGregor

When you think of iconic superhero villains it doesn’t take very long to recognize the clown prince of crime, The Joker. Immortalized throughout cinema by actors like Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and Joaquin Phoenix, The Joker is chaos, carnage, comedy, and cream cosmetics wrapped into one complicated bad guy. 

Perhaps it’s time to clear some space for another villain, or even better a villainess, painted in the vein of The Joker. Harley Quinn made her first appearance in the DC Comics movie misstep “The Suicide Squad”, but Harley, played by Margot Robbie, was the highlight of the entire film, even overshadowing a new performance from Jared Leto playing The Joker. 

“Birds of Prey” or “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” lets Margot Robbie loose with a zany, messy, comical, clumsy comic book movie that relishes in its cinematic mayhem. What transpires is less a superhero quality and more a straightforward action film with a group of tough-as-nails ladies standing up to a world dominated by loathsome men. 

Harley (Margot Robbie) has a story to tell, one that only she can tell, and it involves bad breakups, murderers, new friends, and a lost diamond. Harley is moving on from Mr. J (her pet name for Joker), trying to make a new path in Gotham City but not realizing how many bridges she has burned while living freely in love. Now, she’s a wanted woman, specifically by a new bad guy in Gotham named Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).  Harley, being hunted by every person she wronged while dating the Joker, is forced into finding a young pickpocket named Cass (Ella Jay Basco) who has stolen something very valuable.

“Birds of Prey” is an R-rated romp in overindulgent style and over-the-top comic book antics. It’s cluttered in parts, specifically during the chaotic back-and-forth storytelling style where Harley narrates her version of the events leading towards the finale, but also exceptionally fun, like when Harley unleashes her fighting flair with a baseball bat or chats cute with her pet hyena. 

Margot Robbie seems tailored for the role of Harley, she composes a playful sensibility from the beginning, almost shedding the villain quality completely in favor of a powerful woman who will not be told what to do and how to live. Whether giggling maniacally, screaming obscenities or spouting big intellectual psychology comments, Ms. Robbie completely owns the character. 

The supporting cast helps the sloppy narrative. Rosie Perez, tough and showing wonderful attitude, plays an underappreciated cop who is chasing all the loose ends perpetrated by Harley. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is a welcome addition playing a lounge singer with a powerful voice and Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a great job of being nervously awkward as a crossbow-wielding assassin. Ewan McGregor plays the big bad with a confident quirkiness, while it doesn’t always work it seems Mr. McGregor is having lots of fun with the role.

The film, at times, feels too deliberately wacky and purposefully cartoonish, but the madcap quality does have its benefits in keeping the tone very lighthearted and focused on creating something of a crazed carnival of scenes. This movie feels like an appropriate transition, or side story, for the DC Films brand that has composed a more serious atmosphere for their superhero stories. 

“Birds of Prey” thrives best when Harley has a team to work around and with. Margot Robbie holds the film together even when it becomes too frenzied for its own good. Still, the charm of the eccentric characters, the amusement park of hectic action, and the playfulness found in almost every scene make this a must-see for comic book fans.

Monte’s Rating
3.00 out of 5.00

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