The past several offerings from the DC Extended Universe have been very entertaining despite DC’s track record with these incarnations of their characters. Aquaman was pure campy action and Shazam is by far the most heartfelt and best film of the franchise. So, Birds of Prey had a lot of weight on its shoulders coming in, and that weight was compounded with the film’s very odd and ineffective marketing campaign. Luckily, Birds of Prey manages to continue the streak of entertaining films from DC, although, not without its flaws.
Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (will be referred to as Birds of Prey for remainder because it is a ridiculous title) sees us picking up sometime after the events of Suicide Squad (2016) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the Joker have just broken up. Trying to find her way on the unforgiving streets of Gotham, Harley finds herself the target of people across the city including Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), aka Black Mask: a notorious and misogynistic crime lord that holds a reign over Gotham. In order to protect herself, Harley agrees to search for a stolen diamond of Roman’s, and, in doing so, crosses paths a colorful assortment of femme fatales including Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).
By far the best part of the movie are the performances of the entire cast. Margot Robbie owns every single scene she’s in and completely nails the zaniness of Harley Quinn while also giving her a deeper side that comes off as really powerful in many scenes. Ewan McGregor is also amazing as Black Mask—although if you are a fan of the character in the comics, be warned that this is a very different incarnation—as he manages to bring the campiness while also making it feel intense and real. All the auxiliary performances are all really good with each actress and actor bringing their own quirks to the mismatch of personalities in the film. A real standout is Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz as he envelopes his role as the crazy assassin and acts as a great right-hand man to Ewan McGregor—their on-screen chemistry is amazing.
Birds of Prey is the first DC film to be rated R and it takes full advantage of it. The action is incredibly choreographed and bloody and intense. The quips coming from these villainess characters come off as snarky and natural with the added vulgarity which leads to a more quirky and bonkers Harley. Along with all of this, the R rating takes the advantage of showing off some of the more gruesome things that you would expect crazy mass murders to do.
All of the pieces of Birds of Prey are amazing but put together the film feels very disjointed. The story of the film is told through the perspective of Harley, so, it abandons the traditional three act structure and is very all over the place. While it was a clever idea on paper, it was not a wise choice to implement. Due to the way the story is told, the conclusion just felt rushed and very anticlimactic, which is disappointing as the buildup was setting up a big finale. While everything in Birds of Prey should have created a great final product, the result was lesser than the sum of its parts.
As a whole, Birds of Prey is filled with many great elements that unfortunately do not quite fit together. That said, it is still a very good film and marks another decent entry for DC. It is just unfortunate that it is not as great as it should have been. I will say, if you enjoy Suicide Squad or Aquaman, then you will probably enjoy this film as well.
Birds of Prey is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material.