Review: Birds of Prey (2020)

Director: Cathy Yan
Screenwriter: Christina Hodson
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez
Genres: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Release Dates: 2/7/20 (Wide Theatrical); 3/24/20 (Disc/Streaming)
Where to Watch: HBO Max
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

Birds of Prey (or whatever its title is now) is infinitely better [in a number of ways] than the abysmal Suicide Squad — and, thankfully, that’s largely due the film focusing on the best thing about Suicide Squad: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Harley is a far cry from the perfect goodness of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, star of the DCEU’s other female-fronted flick. Robbie’s Harley is foul-mouthed, impulsive, wild, and has somehow managed to obtain a plethora of people who want her dead. In fact, one of the running jokes in the film — which I found clever and on-brand — is when a random person pops up and Harley (who is the narrator) mentions the person’s name and grievance(s).

Harley is, clearly, an unreliable narrator. But, through her eyes, her life is as fascinating and complicated as one could imagine. Harley’s narration does get in the way, at times, especially when attempting to describe the narrative of the film, which is not as rock-solid as I’d like it to be. I think the movie could’ve benefited from more straightforward, linear storytelling; the rest of it is wacky enough already (and that’s a good thing).

Robbie is at the top of her game here, fully committed to playing such an insane and unique character who is light-years different from anyone else she has ever played. Her mannerisms and physicality help make Harley Quinn a fully-formed human being. She’s as much a role model as Wonder Woman is the devil, yet you can’t take your eyes off her (face tattoos and all).

Then, there are some sweet assists from fellow badass ladies Jurnee Smollett as Black Canary, Mary Elizabeth Winsted as Huntress, and Rosie Perez as the disgruntled cop — who’s a lesbian, which is a big deal in a superhero flick (Harley herself is bisexual). When they finally all team up, it’s a sight to behold.

And, let’s not leave out Ewan McGregor, who clearly has a blast playing the manic Sionus, who has his goon/possible lover (Chris Messina) kill/torture people who disagree/disobey him. All in all, Birds of Prey is a raucously entertaining film — with a killer, all-female soundtrack — and solid direction by Cathy Yan.

B+

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