Birds of Prey Review: A fantabulous, hilarious, bloody, and bonkers must-see
While David Ayer’s adaptation of Suicide Squad was handily labeled as another dud for DC’s endeavors in creating a cinematic universe, there was one aspect that most viewers came away wanting a more of – Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. With a booming personality and charm, Robbie was one of the brighter stars of Suicide Squad that people were interesting to see what else was in store for her. Now, after a string of ambitious and energized hits, Harley finally gets the redemption she deserves, and DC puts out its most unique films with Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.
The film follows Harley (Robbie) after she has a messy break-up with The Joker and is now alone for the first time in quite in some time. Although she’s done with the Joker for good, she’s not letting everyone in on the news because she doesn’t want to lose her immunity against Gotham’s worst. However, after she decides to make her breakup public by blowing up ACE Chemicals, she becomes the number one target of Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), an eccentric mob boss with a love for masks, and his right-hand man Zsasz (Chris Messina), a knife-wielding psychopath. With Sionis and Zsasz looking to take her out, Harley becomes intertwined with other women in Gotham looking for emancipation and they all must work together to stop Sionis from taking over the city.
With Harley driving the narrative and a fantabulous R-rating, Bird of Prey is pretty much everything you could want in Harley Quinn movie and more. Since Harley acts as the film’s narrator, nothing is off the table. From stylish character introductions for everyone, except Zsasz for some reason, to the incredible animated opening recapping her relationship with the Joker, Harley’s let off the leash and it leads to a wild time. There’s even a musical sequence that comes in when Harley is getting hit by Sionis that I loved and seeing Harley worship a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich being made is one of the most relatable and hilarious scenes I’ve seen. The film has a perfect sense of energy that’s stays consistent throughout and makes the unconventional, out of order storytelling lively.
Sometimes when a film has constant flashbacks and goes back to a previous scene to flesh things out, it can feel like you’re not making any progress and lack a sense of direction in where things are going. However, that never happens with Birds of Prey and every time it fleshes out an interaction or story that seems incidental, it reinvigorates the story and creates new interest in the characters. There’s actually a moment where Harley breaking into GCPD seems random, but then Harley cuts in to take viewers back to a major scene to flesh out her motivations and shed more light on why she’s there. Even outside of Harley, seeing how Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is enveloped into Sionis’ criminal organization and connected with GCPD detective Renee Montoya’s (Rosie Perez) investigation against Sionis and how Cassandra Cain’s (Ella Jay Basco) pick-pocketing makes her Gotham’s most wanted is very satisfying. It’s even awesome to see Huntress’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) origins slowly be revealed, sometime without it fully acknowledging it, and a lot of credit has to go to writer Christina Hodson for creating such a strongly ambitious narrative that succeeds – for the most part. There’re some connections that do feel a little forced, like Zsasz and Huntress’, but overall, it’s a storytelling style that fits perfectly with Quinn.
Speaking of Quinn, Robbie totally thrives without the rest of the Suicide Squad and brings a new kind of chemistry and emotion with a whole new squad of leading ladies. In her return, Robbie perfectly delivers hilarious lines, quick-witted remarks, and brings the wild physicality that Quinn is known for. Robbie even brings out the more cathartic elements of Quinn forging her own path and you connect her trying to get over her loneliness and find self-inspiration in life without the Joker. It’s a strong journey of a woman finding herself and Robbie makes it all the better with a performance that just lets her let loose and have fun.
The same can be said for the other dames in Gotham looking for emancipation as they all put in fun performances that standout and leave a unique impression. Smollett-Bell is a bad-ass Black Canary as she brings tough physical presence and a silky-smooth personality that’s hard not to love. Not to mention, the scene of her singing “This is a Man’s World” is killer and she certainly lives up to shattering vocal range Canary is known for. Perez brings a great energy as Montoya and hilariously spews the 80’s cop show lines that she’s known for here. The scenes of her trying to catch Quinn and getting into fights with her are perfectly funny. Basco is also great and there’s a lot of great scenes with her and Robbie as the two characters grow close. The best surprise has to be Winstead as Huntress as she brings the kick-ass nature of Huntress to life and leans into her overly serious attitude perfectly to create some really funny moments. Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Winstead as Huntress, but she’s really a great fit and I’d love to see her and this entire return together in the near future.
Being a DC fan, especially villains, my favorite performances definitely come from McGregor and Messina as they respective villains as they’re some of the best depictions that DC has brought to the big screen. While they’re typically loners in the comics, especially Zsasz, I would’ve never thought that they’d be so great together. McGregor is just dripping personality with every scene he’s in and there’s always this deep darkness that’s just waiting to come out. When it inevitably does, he finally dons that sweet black mask and truly comes alive. Messina is subtly dark as Zsasz and keeps his obsessively gruesome mentality in check until he decides to let loose. Right from the way he speaks he bring Zsasz to life on-screen and the only complaint I have is that I wish there was more of him. When these two come together, they’re just a devilishly delightful pair that just steal every scene they’re in.
The true MVP of Birds of Prey is undoubtedly director Cathy Yan as she creates incredibly shot action sequences and brings together all of the technical aspects to create incredible environments. From the artsy interior of Sionis’ underground club to the wacky and colorful carnival room the film’s big fight takes place, Birds of Prey literally feels like it came from Harley’s head and Yan plays with the space really well. The action is fun, satisfying, brutal, bloody, and everything you could want it to be and I now never want to see Harley fight without roller skates ever again. With all of the great music, including a moment where Barracuda by Pat Benatar kicks in and really pumps you up, and great choreography, Yan really proves herself with Birds of Prey and makes herself a name to watch in the future.
While it’s already been said plenty of times, I’ll say it again – Birds of Prey is the movie Suicide Squad wishes it was. It’s a total blast as it offers a sadistic sense of fun, ambitious storytelling, and a strong return and redemption for Robbie as Quinn. Honestly, Yan sets a pretty high bar for Harley’s next outing in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. It’s one of my favorite comic adaptations recently, possibly ever, and I can’t recommend it enough. GO SEE IT!