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Birds of Prey – Movie Review

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Birds of Prey – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Since her introduction in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn has remained a fan favourite character and for good reason. Often described as the Joker’s girlfriend, there’s more to Harley than that and Birds of Prey looks to give her a worthy starring role separate from the Clown Prince of Crime. Watching the movie, one wonders why it’s even called Birds of Prey as it really belongs to Harley and the other women are just along for the ride. Throw in a fun villain turn by Ewan McGregor and solid action sequences and director Cathy Yan has crafted a solid popcorn romp.

The movie is at its strongest in its first fifteen minutes. The film sets up Harley Quinn’s personality quite well, including with an inventive and brilliantly animated opening sequence from the artists at Warner Bros Animation. Margot Robbie was one of the highlights of the mixed bag that was Suicide Squad and she continues to play Harley with the needed spirit and enthusiasm. Robbie is able to get laughs out of even simple facial expressions and she clearly understands everything about this character. Yan, meanwhile, has fun with on-screen graphics and in the moments when she’s truly allowed to go out there. A potentially entertaining musical rendition of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, aping the set and costumes from the Marilyn Monroe musical Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, is disappointingly cut short. However, what little we see is wonderful.

One of the other strong points of Birds of Prey comes from Ewan McGregor’s take on night club owner Roman Sionis aka Black Mask. McGregor appears to be having the time of his life playing this deranged villain and is not afraid of showing how far he will go to get what he wants. The film really pops in those scenes where McGregor and Robbie are on-screen together. With Harley Quinn getting most of the focus, the other female characters aren’t allowed to shine as much. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez and Jurnee Smollett-Bell do well in their roles, but often have to fight for screentime. Ella Jay Basco, in her feature acting debut, has nice chemistry with Harley as crafty pickpocket Cassandra Cain.

The fight choreography and action is well done, with the actors and stunt team given the freedom to perform some impressive moves. Harley gets some of the more inventive bits of action, including a fun chase scene early on. Birds of Prey is able to apply a stylized approach to the hand-to-hand combats. And fitting Harley Quinn, there are some fun scenes with a hammer. One just wishes the story was a bit more interesting. Outside of the more crazy elements, Birds of Prey stays rather conventional on the narrative front, especially in the second half. The movie does play with flashbacks and flashforwards, but that’s mostly in the first act.

Birds of Prey isn’t quite the ensemble piece promised by the title. A more accurate title would have been Harley Quinn, as she is the star of the picture. Deservedly so, as Margot Robbie rocks the role in a way that makes it uniquely hers, while still paying homage to earlier incarnations. While there are bursts of inspiration and creativity, the movie plays it surprisingly safe a good amount of the time. As a result, it doesn’t reach the crazy heights it could have gone. However, on its own, Birds of Prey makes for a solid comic book escapade and a good showcase for Robbie as well as a chance for Ewan McGregor to play someone truly menacing.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison