Movie Review: Birds of Prey

John Sabato, Writer

Following the success of 2016s “Suicide Squad,” the potential within the character of Harley Quinn was fully realized by studio heads at Warner Brothers. From there Margot Robbie came up with the idea for a sequel, and thus came “Birds of Prey,” later subtitled “The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.” Pitched as an R rated “girl gang film,” Robbie saw this as a perfect opportunity to use her fame as Quinn and surround herself with some lesser-known strong female characters from within the DC omnibus. “Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is a non-stop thrill ride filled with expertly executed fight choreography, stunning cinematography, and a flock of fantastic leading actresses that find companionship in the fact that if they don’t band together, they may fall to the sinister and sadist Roman Sionis aka “Black Mask”. 

A nonlinear story is always an interesting method, and it’d never really been done with a comic book movie. It offered a fresh new way to tell a story within this genre of films. When you have your leading lady, Harley Quinn, telling the story it’s definitely going to get a little messy with a scatterbrained narrator constantly backtracking to parts that she missed. The film is quite reminiscent of Tarantino’s filmography, a pioneer in the film industry. It felt like “Kill Bill”, “Inglourious Basterds”, and “Pulp Fiction” all rolled into one big explosive story that resulted in one wild ride throughout Gotham City. The film includes excellent music, from the score composed by Daniel Pemberton to the soundtrack. The music energizes the already fast-paced fight choreography unfolding on the screen.

The film is lead by returning “Suicide Squad” alum Margot Robbie, who made a splash for her portrayal as the infamous Harley Quinn. Fresh out of a relationship, Harley finds herself in a big bad world and must finally free herself from the shadow of the Joker. 

Once again, Robbie brings out the gratuitous and untamed nature of the character, a performance that feels ripped from the page. Harley becomes involved with another group of interesting characters such as Black Canary played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Huntress played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain. Bell’s Canary is the standout among the new characters introduced, adapting the supersonic siren to peak comic accuracy through Bell’s performance and expertly executed fight sequences. Huntress was a character that should have gotten more screen time than she was given; the crossbow-wielding dame of damnation returned to Gotham to seek revenge for the death of her family, who were killed in a seize of power from the Bertinelli crime family. The weakest link had to come from Basco’s Cassandra Cain, not performance-wise, but portrayal-wise. This character was Cassandra Cain only in name. They took a complete 180 with this character from the source material, while the actress does great with what she’s given, the once mute assassin was reduced to nothing but an orphaned pickpocket in this adaptation. The role could have easily been filled by other characters from the comics such as  Stephanie Brown or Damian Wayne, two characters not included in the movie but may have better fit the role.

Each and every one of the characters, somehow find themselves caught in Roman Sionis’ ever expanding web of crime as he tries to seize the criminal underworld of Gotham. Roman is played by Ewan Mcgregor, who brings an energy to the character that feels menacing yet charming. It’s easy to quickly figure out that Roman is always wearing a mask, and it is not until he puts on his literal mask that his true colors begin to shine through. Roman is paired with the vicious Victor Zsasz, played by Chris Messina, a psychopath with the obsession to kill, with each kill adding another scar to his expanding gallery of cuts.     

One final gripe within the film may very well be its rating. While it sounds cool at first to be able to see an R rated comic book movie, you gotta make sure the rating is being used right. Here I felt the R rating was wasted on a few scenes and some language in the movie. I can only think of one scene in particular where the villains even put the movie’s rating to good use, which doesn’t fit well when the villains are a serial killer and a crime lord. This movie could’ve been PG-13 and still included most of its runtime. The film being rated R, seems like it unintentionally alienated a vast majority of the people who saw “Suicide Squad” for Harley Quinn, but it doesn’t help when the marketing for “Birds Of Prey” was quite lackluster when compared to “Suicide Squad” marketing.