Birds of Prey (and the unnecessarily long title) takes the best element of 2016’s Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn, and throws her in her own movie alongside a group of heroines whose paths collide when they’re all after the same thieving young girl.
I’ve seen this movie cop a bit of flak since its release with some labelling it as an uninteresting mess, however, I really enjoyed it from beginning to end. The story definitely has its ups and downs, specifically in the first act, but overall it’s quite entertaining the whole way through. The first act is definitely the weakest link, mainly due to the structure. I didn’t love the decision to jump back and forth multiple times in an effort to get a look into each character that is introduced. Some of the backstory was nice, but I feel like not all of it needed to be there and a more linear retelling would have worked better and been less convoluted.
Going into the second act, the story takes a more linear approach to the story, getting rid of any jumping back and forth in time and finding a little more of its identity. In saying that, it does clash a little with how chaotic the story is presented in the first act compared to how straightforward it is in the second. But, the overall anarchic tone of the film is what ties the two together.
The third act is where things come together and the film is at its absolute best. It may sound like I’m being negative about some of the earlier acts, but there are things to enjoy the entire way through that make the whole ride fun, regardless of how the story is being told. This final act really stands out above the rest, it’s where all of the big moments pay off and it boasts some of the best, and most insane, action of the film. The true spirit of the film is this final act, where it finally lets loose and delivers all the ass-kicking action you could ask for.
The film may be called Birds of Prey, but for the first two acts it’s more of a Harley Quinn movie than a Birds of Prey movie. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but I’d have liked to see more of the “birds of prey” than what is more or less packed into the final act. What we did get, however, is another spectacular performance from Margot Robbie who is the perfect Harley Quinn. She effortlessly captures the pure insanity of the character and really is the life of the party. If there’s one thing I want to see more of from the DCEU, it’s Margot’s Harley Quinn, undoubtedly the best thing going for it right now.
Alongside Margot Robbie as Harley, Birds of Prey also introduces Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress and Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary, both of whom are great in their roles, despite not being as heavily featured as expected. They’re both in here for the entire duration, however, they don’t really feel like part of the story until later on. It’s a shame because I enjoyed both of them in their roles, specifically Mary Elizabeth Winstead who I’ve loved in a number of films. Rosie Peres is fine as Renee Montoya, but I feel like she was somewhat miscast in the role. When it came to some of the ass-kicking action, I couldn’t buy her in the role as much as those alongside her.
On the side of the villains, Ewan McGregor is awesome as Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask. Seeing Ewan in a villainous role is something new, and what’s great about his performance is that all of the charm he usually exhibits goes out the window. He’s menacing, evil and an appropriate threat for this pretty small-scale story.
When it comes to the action, it’s fast paced, colourful, violent and endlessly entertaining the whole way through. The choreography is good and each sequence feels fresh thanks to the variety of action sequences that are in here. What director Cathy Yan has done really well is make every element of this film feel in line with the character of Harley Quinn. Everything is loud and chaotic, ensuring the tone never shifts to something that doesn’t fit the story or characters.
In the end, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (real title) is a very fun ride with plenty of chaotic action, a spectacular Margot Robbie performance and a couple of new faces that we’ll hopefully see more of in the future. The story and structure woes of the first half and the fact that we don’t get a tonne of action from the new characters is a bit of a letdown, but once you get to the third act it’s like a theme park ride you don’t want to end. With all of the confusion surrounding the DCEU, it’s good to see it still has some good things going for it.