At a cursory glance, Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has a lot going for it, besides the exhausting title. It is the second DCEU to feature a female lead and the second film in DC Comic’s rocky film history to have a female director (Cathy Yan). Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, and she was one of the few positives of the very not-good Suicide Squad. Most importantly, this film takes place in Gotham City and features absolutely zero nipples on a Batman costume.
Unfortunately, this film is just another in a long line of DCEU slogs that goes nowhere and does so slowly and painfully. It’s not an awful film (like Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice), but it is bad. And to be in the bottom tier of DC’s film franchise is saying something, as only one of their films can be considered good, and that’s Wonder Woman (which sees it’s own sequel coming out this summer).
Let’s take a quick look at what’s going on here: After being dumped by the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) no longer has the protection of her psychopathic boyfriend and that means that the people she’s done wrong are coming for her, chief among them the maniacal Black Mask (Ewan McGregor, who is pretty effective here). In order to stay alive, Black Mask demands that Harley find Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Bosco), a young pickpocket who has a valuable diamond.
Also looking for Cain are police officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), vigilante The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Dinah Lance, aka The Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). As in any superhero film, action and hi-jinks ensue as all of the ladies realize that the only way they will survive is to team up.
Yan does as much as she can to make the film fast-paced and entertaining. An action sequence inside of a police station where Quinn attacks with shotgun pellets filled with glitter and colored powder is the highlight of the film. It’s a mess of color and smoke and Robbie’s smile and bright eyes that look to thrive on the mess and chaos.
But besides that sequence and few sparing moments like this, the film seems to be bogged down by it’s own lack of plot and ambition. For a movie titled Birds Of Prey, the film doesn’t give any of the titular birds (Perez, Winstead, and Smollett-Bell) any real screen time at all. We don’t know anything about these women and are given a bare minimum as the film progresses. There is literally no reason to care about any of these characters, and when they decide they need to come together, all I can think of is, “Why bother? Who cares?”
Honestly, besides Robbie, no one is given anything really to do here. Somehow, only Ewan McGregor is able to give his character any sort of definition. As Black Mask, he brings both an energy and menace that makes us understand why people fear him. Had it been McGregor instead of Jared Leto in Suicide Squad, one could only wonder if the film would have had a little more heft.
With no time given to the other characters, that puts all of the weight on Robbie’s shoulders, and she’s definitely trying her best. Unfortunately, this paper-thin script (written by Christina Hodson) doesn’t really service her at all, either. Yeah, Quinn in in every scene, but as much noise as Robbie can make, it’s not really serving any purpose. Her jokes don’t really hit and she doesn’t have any of the chaotic charm that she had in Suicide Squad. She spends the first part of the film as a whiny drunk more than a criminial deviant.
Birds Of Prey is a lost film that never finds it’s footing, even in it’s rating. I had assumed the fact that it earned an R from the MPAA meant that the film would be filled with violence and language and make an attempt to be a Deadpool-ian romp of crass jokes and violence. But the film isn’t really that crass or that violent. Honestly, it’s about three “fucks” and maybe one shot away from being PG-13, which I actually think would have helped the film bring in younger viewers (at the time of this review, the film has grossly underperformed at the box office and may not make it’s budget back).
At the end of the day, Birds Of Prey doesn’t feature a fantabulous emancipation and doesn’t focus on the birds. For a character that is supposed to be as wild and outlandish as Quinn, the film is the worst thing it could possibly be: it’s just boring.
Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)– 6.5/10