Birds of Prey Review – Birds of Prey gets 3 F’s: Fun, Funny, and F$!&* Violent
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn starts of the 2020 slate of superhero movies and I must say, the Birds sets the bar quite high. Birds of Prey focuses on the fall and rise of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after a devastating break up with the Joker. Being Harley Quinn, this isn’t your typical breakup and come-up story. Harley’s recovery process is loud, over the top, excessive, all the while being chaotically beautiful. Her “process” affects and encompasses numerous others, creating a series of unlikely and unfortunate events that eventually bring together the Birds of Prey.
The “breakup” setting allowed for the movie to tell the story in a very unique way. While in the end, it does play out chronologically, in the beginning, it bounces a lot from time and perspective. It could get a little bit confusing at times, but it comes together strong. The unique story progression plays out like a friend who’s been through it and telling you the story about it. They explain what starts it, then what happens right after, and the crazy thing that it leads too – but wait this is why it’s crazy – oh and this happened too – also, that thing that happened earlier lead to this person getting involved – okay that’s how this crazy thing happened. It perfectly hits the “Where are you going with this?” and “Oh my God! Just get to the point!” middle ground making for a genius mix of emotions. If you’ve talked with an excited friend, you know the feeling, and Birds of Prey uses that “unstructured” method to brilliant encapsulates the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. It is a truly fresh approach in an incredibly saturated genre.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy this movie so much, is how much fun the casts seem to be having. Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis/Black Mask is an over the top heartless crime boss that you will love to hate. McGregor does a great job of switching between crime boss to insecure and fragile brat. Chris Messina as Zasz, is a unique take. Not one I’m used to seeing of the self-scarring serial killer, but Messina did a great job of embodying this zanier and more flamboyant version.
Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya was absolutely perfect casting. But much like Renee Montoya, she is greatly underused. Perez perfectly captures that 80’s detective archetype, which serves as a straight player to the zany adventure that happens around her. A point that many characters call out in a very meta way. Perez’s Montoya definitely helps ground the movie, but I feel an opportunity was missed to really highlight the contrast and solidify the double-act.
In the same vein, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress is kind of a solo-double-act. In Winstead’s case, I believe her character’s role was perfect for the story, but I wanted more. Winstead’s Huntress plays on a very logical, but often overlooked, aspect of someone who has dedicated most of their life to revenge, they’d likely be socially awkward. Huntress spent over a decade training as an assassin to have her revenge on those that killed her family. Those years fully encompassed her formative years. This leads her to be a more than capable assassin, but a less than capable speaker. Her declarations often are misunderstood and leave her listener’s underwhelmed. It is a glorious contrast to see someone masterfully assassinate her target but horribly deliver her speech. I definitely wanted a lot more scenes of that.
Another character noticeably different than her comic counterpart is Cassandra Cain, played by the spunky Ella Jay Basco. Basco did a great job of playing a smart-mouth pickpocket who is truly an innocent at heart. She’s definitely a scene-stealer. However, Basco’s Cain felt a lot more like Jason Todd in my opinion, which isn’t a bad thing, but something I just thought I had to point out. Regardless, Basco’s light-hearted demeanor as she picked the pockets of Gotham’s citizens, sharp tongue, and raw reactions to situations really make Cain a very likable character. Cain was given a rough hand and you feel for her.
Speaking of scene-stealers, Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Dinah Lance/Black Canary was the most developed member of the Bird of Prey. Smollett-Bell’s performance felt a lot more like a lead than a supporting character. Aside from screen time, Canary is the only character who we got to see develop on screen outside of Harley. Dinah Lance was just a singer at a night club, trying to get by, and being nice to the neighbor kid with a messed up home situation. But her strong moral compass, and Harley Quinn’s reckless disregard for consequences, puller her into the frey. Which does lead to her becoming the hero she was always meant to be. Smolett-Bell not only fiercely embodies a person who just wants to get paid and left alone, but she also nails her vocal performance and absolutely kills her fight choreography. This is impressive in itself, as this film has the best fight choreo in all fo the DCEU, but she does it in huge platform shoes! It’s safe to say, there’s nothing she can’t do.
Lastly, the title character, Miss Harleen Quinzel, better known as Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn has evolved quite a bit since Suicide Squad. Robbie has really begun to make the character her own, which is hard to do with such defined versions from BTAS and the Arkham games. Robbie’s Quinn, much like the movie’s title, is emancipated from being connected to other versions and powerfully stands on her own as a solo act. The film masterfully captures that journey, and we get to see Robbie go through the ups and downs of a broken person become their own. Even if it is just realizing how cool you are and being able to share yourself with another person.
The last thing I want to touch on is fight choreography. Birds of Prey has the best fight choreography of the entire DCEU. Granted, there aren’t many superpowers for them to incorporate, but the fight scenes are much more than just brawls. The film does an incredible job of highlighting the different fighting styles of each of the characters. Montoya is much more of a traditional brawler, so we get to see her land some incredibly powerful punches that flattens her opponents. The Huntress focuses on her crossbow, so we get to see her incorporate some trick shots into her sleek and fluid fighting. Then we have the hard kicking Canary, who finds the most inventive ways to use every side of her heel. Whether with direct contact or interacting with the environment. Lastly, we have Harley Quinn. The film brilliantly incorporates the character’s gymnastics background into her movement and fighting style. Also, for all characters but especially Harley, they do an incredible job of showing how they build power into their blows. It never feels off, when one of these characters lay out some thug twice their size. Then throw in the fact that Robbie does a bunch of her fights in roller skates, it’s mind-blowing.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn starts off the 2020 superhero movie slate with a big kapow! It is a chaotic mash-up that comes together to make a very enjoyable film. It’s loud, at times confusing, but only to make the eventual combination that much more impactful. It is an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. Not to mention hilarious. The sight gags are live-action embodiments of the Looney Tunes and the meta-ish dialogue allows the film to make fun of itself without taking anything away. Also, there is one of the best cooking scenes in modern cinema very early in the movie. Cathy Han did an incredible job bringing in so many different elements and different approaches into one beautifully chaotic film that captures the beautiful chaos that is Harley Quinn. My Birds of Prey review gets 4/5 stars.
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is in theaters now. And the movie isn’t doing as well as it should be, which is a bummer, because this definitely should do better than Suicide Squad.
Birds of Prey Review
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn starts off the 2020 superhero movie slate with a big kapow! It is a chaotic mash-up that comes together to make a very enjoyable film. It’s loud, at times confusing, but only to make the eventual combination that much more impactful. It is an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. Not to mention hilarious. The sight gags are live-action embodiments of the Looney Tunes and the meta-ish dialogue allows the film to make fun of itself without taking anything away. Also, there is one of the best cooking scenes in modern cinema very early in the movie. Cathy Han did an incredible job bringing in so many different elements and different approaches into one beautifully chaotic film that captures the beautiful chaos that is Harley Quinn.