You ever hear the one about the cop, the songbird, the psycho and the mafia princess? “Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. When Gotham’s most nefariously narcissistic villain, Roman Sionis, and his zealous right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Black Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide, and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down.
What We Thought:
Birds of Prey is a mess. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a comedy like Deadpool, a serious movie like Joker or a super team mashup like The Avengers. There are huge tonal shifts throughout the film and it relies heavily on style over substance for most of the flick.
My biggest complaint is the title. This is not a Birds of Prey movie. It’s 100% a Harley Quinn film hence the subtitle And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Most people trashed Suicide Squad, but agreed that Margot Robbie did a great job as Harley. She returns for this film, narrates it and is in 90% or more of the scenes. It should simply be a Harley movie which introduces characters that will eventually make up the Birds of Prey in a follow up film. Calling it Birds of Prey makes one think of the Birds of Prey characters and storylines from the comics and short lived TV show. This really has nothing to do with the Birds of Prey besides introducing some characters and putting them all together at the end. I won’t get into the fact that some of them were never Birds of Prey in the comics because the average moviegoer won’t know that. Call this The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn because that’s what it is.
Then there are the previously mentioned tonal shifts. With a character like Harley Quinn you do expect a mix of emotions. She should be funny and super violent. She should be serious at times because of her horrific backstory involving The Joker. I get that, but man does this movie jump around a lot. It opens with Harley and Mr. J breaking up which leads to a lot of drinking for Harley. She blows up the refinery that had a connection for them. Then it becomes open season on her since she’s no longer under The Joker’s protection. Then there’s a scene about her getting an egg sandwich. Yes you read that correctly. She explains who is after her and what she did to piss them off all while slowly introducing the characters that will later join her, Black Canary, The Huntress, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain. There are even cutaways or flashbacks to further explain things because she might have forgotten to mention something. So here you are in one scene and we’re gonna take you out of it to put you into a scene of exposition.
I’d say the one positive with the film (besides a good soundtrack) is the violence. Harley Quinn should be an over-the-top character and there are some decent action sequences in the movie. She enters a police station and trashes the place. The final battle with Black Mask and his crew is pretty solid if not predictable. I would have liked more Harley and violence and less backstory on characters that really won’t flourish until the next film.
I can’t say Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is disappointing because I didn’t expect much in the first place. The trailers never quite sold me on the movie and despite being a huge Margot Robbie fan, I just wasn’t looking forward to this. I was hoping the low expectations would help me enjoy the movie more, but I don’t know if it’s something I’d watch again. It’s not completely terrible or anything, but it has a ton of issues. I think they wasted Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask character because he could have been a great gangster villain in the franchise. They either needed to cut Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s The Huntress character completely or give her more to do because she was under utilized. She’s another quality actress and The Huntress character is pretty badass in the comics. The movie will probably make some money, but being R-Rated will hurt it a bit. Harley Quinn is one of the most beloved comic book characters so hopefully the fanbase will show up for it, but don’t expect it to do Joker or Deadpool (other R-Rated comic book movies) money. The movie jumps around too much and beats you over the head with a message I won’t even get into, but it is under 2 hours long so that’s a plus.
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Christina Hodson
Producers: Margot Robbie, Bryan Unkeless, Sue Kroll
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco and Ewan McGregor