Birds of Prey
Starring Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong
David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016) was a mixed bag. DC’s second attempt to rival Marvel’s Avengers franchise saga came and went. Now two time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (Bombshell, I Tonya), catapults the most talked about performance from Suicide Squad, into her own movie. Director Cathy Yan trades the darkness of Suicide Squad for an array of color in Birds of Prey. Did we really need a Harley Quinn movie and does Birds of Prey have anything to new say, the answer would be no. Robbie has become an international star, claiming she will play Harley Quinn as long as they want her. What made Suicide Squad work was the inclusion of Batman and Joker as side characters, while the rest got the full attention, including a stand out Viola Davis. Birds of Prey is something completely different, funny at times, violent in others, ultimately it will be the film in December people say “oh that was this year?”.
“She just updated her relationship status in a big way,” Gotham Detective Renee Montoya (Perez) says about Harley Quinn (Robbie) blowing up the chemical plant where she and Joker first fell in love. The relationship has ended and Quinn is determined to do things her own way now. Only problem is, without the protection of “Mr. J”, every criminal in the city wants her dead. With Joker missing in action, Gotham’s Godfather Roman Sionis (McGregor) is crowned most vicious bad guy. He’s on the hunt for a diamond that’s currently in bowels of a teenage pick-pocket Cassandra Cain (Basco). Sionis driver, Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Bell) is determined to spare the life of the kid. Gotham’s criminal food chain is evolving rapidly, everyone is after someone else, including the mysterious crossbow baring Huntress (Winstead). What they all have in common is Harley Quinn getting in their way.
There’s good stuff in Birds of Prey coming from Robbie’s total embrace of the character and even McGregor’s ability to find no end to ridiculousness.
An abundance of characters mean Birds of Prey is obnoxiously too long because in order to do everyone justice, we need their back story. It’s obvious DC Comics and Warner Bros intends to further lean into the profitability they are experiencing with villains, even if Birds of Prey is more on the popcorn and cotton candy side of life, than their 11 time Oscar nominated Joker. Screenwriter Christina Hodson’s ability to rejuvenate the Transformer’s franchise with some creativity and girl power in Bumblebee, made her the ideal candidate to do the same with Harley Quinn’s spinoff. There’s good stuff in Birds of Prey coming from Robbie’s total embrace of the character and even McGregor’s ability to find no end to ridiculousness. Jurnee Smollett-Bell is also very watchable, although her character being the only one with super powers is a bit unfitting.
The overcompensation of how to fill two hours with just Harley Quinn stuff gets a bit desperate. An abundance of fight scenes was apparently the answer. These scenes are not about violence as much as they focus on the creativity Quinn must achieve to overpower men twice her size. Eventually all the characters end up in one room where the inevitable line, “We’re going to have to work together,” is delivered. Now on the one hand, it’s a great girl power moment, all these different characters with opposing agenda’s basically trying to spare the life of one kid. Birds of Prey isn’t about the plot as much as it’s about the enjoyment of this bonkers sub-universe, and if that’s something you enjoy, the ride will take you where you want it to. Aside from Joker, these superhero/antisuperhero films are about excess, superficial entertainment, that’s discarded right along with the oversized refreshments you toss on your way out.
Eccentric, trivial entertainment.