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Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

When SUICIDE SQUAD was set for release in 2016, the belief was that it was going to serve as the catalyst for the DC Extended Universe to launch itself into the stratosphere. Poised to thwart the box office dominance perpetuated by the mighty MCU, it had the powerhouse cast, and engaging storyline (a group of notorious villains banding together to defeat a mysterious, evil entity) to make its mark in the comic-book based cinematic landscape. When David Ayers’s film was released, however, it was a disastrous dud. Shockingly disjointed, and woefully uninspired, it was a clunker that wasted its staggering potential. If there were any bright spots to be found, it was in the form of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Serving as the only character worth further exploring, she was the lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary dumpster fire.

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) gives the maniacal and personable former flame of The Joker (the Jared Leto iteration) center stage, and lets her run wild across the screen. Constantly breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly, Harley spins a tale of heartache and anarchy. Reeling from the dissolution of her relationship with Clown Prince of Darkness, Harley looks for a way to move on. Her solution is to blow up a chemical plant, which is always effective, and then become ingrained on hunting for a diamond at the threatening behest of the evil Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Along the way, she crosses paths with pint-sized pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), determined detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and sassy singer Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollet-Bell.)

Like most of the DC films (WONDER WOMAN serving as the exception) BIRDS OF PREY is not without its problems. Proving, once again, that Marvel has captured lightning in a bottle and have figured out exactly how to piece everything together in a consistent, crowd-pleasing package, this DC production misfires far more often than it hits. While it is intended to be a hilarious and cutting-edge alternative to the likes of THE AVENGERS, PREY never quite establishes the tone it is going for. By taking what should have been a PG-13 film and adding scenes where faces get peeled off, f-bombs are lobbed around, and blood and chunks fly everywhere, it loses an audience that it would have likely appeased. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for absurd gratuity from time to time, but it has to make sense. In this case, it is simply a confounding decision that feels oddly out of place.

You can tell that she (Margot Robbie) is all-in, and is having plenty of fun along the way. This commitment to her character is palpable, and as a result, you can’t help but root her on.

The story isn’t particularly interesting, and though I thought McGregor was great, and he hammed it up with the perfect amount of self-aware absurdity, his character wasn’t nearly as well-defined or developed as a villain should be. The audience is never invested in his rise to power, or fall from grace, thereby nullifying his relevancy.

In many ways, the same can be said about Harley Quinn herself. Though she is the driving force of the production, her journey is far less entertaining than the speed-bumps along the way. Had it not been for the marvelous Margot Robbie, I’m fairly certain that this is a production that never would have seen the light of day. While it does have moments of flashy, dazzling pageantry (such as the explosion of the chemical plant, and Harley’s storming of a police station) it feels more like a collection of vignettes that serve as filler until she fights a bunch of goons in slow motion. These moments, along with the constant audience engagement, serve as the highlight of the film, and allow Robbie to shine. You can tell that she is all-in, and is having plenty of fun along the way. This commitment to her character is palpable, and as a result, you can’t help but root her on. Even in BIRDS OF PREY’s most confounding moments, Robbie shines as a guiding light to bring you back from the brink of banality. 

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

RATED: R

RUN TIME: 1h 49min

GENRE: Action, Adventure, Crime

STARRING:  Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

DIRECTORs: Cathy Yan

Writers:  Christina Hodson, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm

GRADE: C+

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.