Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

The one part of 2016’s Suicide Squad that almost universally was considered a success was Margot Robbie‘s portrayal of Harley Quinn. Even the people who didn’t like the movie enjoyed her performance. So, the smart people at Warner Bros. decided to give her her own movie, but this time also make it R-rated. And also be a team-up movie (eventually) of a bunch of female characters. And also make it colorful. And also make it fun. There were good decisions all around Warner Bros. that day.

So Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was born. Robbie returns as Quinn, who as the movie opens has just broken up with Joker (only seen briefly in flashbacks). She’s now on her own, which means she’s a target. See, she’s a little grating to the people with whom she interacts, and only got away with it because of her attachment with the funny clown man. Without that protection, she’s got a bullseye on her back. A good chunk of the movie sees her trying to not die from all of the people she’s wronged in the past.

One such man is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), also known as Black Mask. He’s known as that because sometimes he puts on a black mask. He’s a club owner and criminal who is currently after a MacGuffin worth billions. It gets stolen by a pickpocket child (Ella Jay Basco), and Quinn gets captured by him. To spare her life, she says she’ll find the child and get the diamond back. The rest of the movie sees that storyline play out, while also introducing the other titular Birds of Prey. I’d get into their stories but the movie does a better job of establishing them than I will and takes a long time to do so.

If your response is “but I might not see the movie,” then you’re a bad movie-watcher, I guess. It’s worth seeing, it’s a riot from start to finish, and it’s got creative action scenes, a good sense of humor, a surprisingly violent streak, and a wonderful lead performance at the center of it all. If that doesn’t sell you on an action movie, then I don’t know what to tell you. How about if I call it the best DC movie since the Nolan Batman movies? Is that good enough?

Birds of Prey is a riot and easily
overcomes its minor plot problems.

The plot is Birds of Prey‘s biggest flaw. It’s jumbled and scatterbrained and not a whole lot actually happens. Much like its predecessor, it takes a long time to set up a pretty simple situation. It’s because it has to establish its host of characters and their motives and back stories, and while this one is a lot more creative about it, it still stops the story midway several times just for that. Those parts aren’t bad, but it’s only once the movie gets past this that it really takes off.

It all works because Margot Robbie continues to be electric as Harley Quinn. Whether she’s narrating or on-screen, the performance captivates and we’re all ears and eyes for what she’s going to say or do next. McGregor’s villain is slimy and he has a lot of fun with the role. The likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Rosie Perez are fun, too, and if we get a sequel I hope they’re more involved.

There’s also just some good filmmaking at play here. The action scenes are shot and put together well and have some creativity to them. The obligatory car chase is fun and there are big scenes in a police station and an amusement park that are fantastic. There’s color and energy to the production, which isn’t something you can always say about a DC movie. And most of the comedy lands. I laughed quite a lot during its relatively brief running time.

Birds of Prey is a riot and easily overcomes its minor plot problems thanks to strong filmmaking, great action, solid comedy, graphic violence, and its lead performance. Margot Robbie returns to her breakout role from Suicide Squad and kills it yet again. If you want a violent thrill ride that’s a blast from start to finish, well, this is a movie that has that. And if it’s the direction the DCEU is headed? I guess I’m on board.

Conclusion: Birds of Prey is a heck of a fun time.

Recommendation: If you like action movies, Birds of Prey is worth checking out.

  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10

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