Separated from the Suicide Squad and dumped by the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), wants to move on but is not sure how. She’s kept the breakup a secret but wants to reveal it’s over. She comes up with the bright idea to blow up the location where they confessed their love for one another. Harley Quinn gets away with just about anything around Gotham because people are scared of the Joker’s wrath. Once that relationship is gone, though, all hell breaks loose for her as this sends a message that she’s no longer under the Clown Prince’s protection. Oops.
Investigating the explosion, detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), knows Quinn is on the run, which means she can get close enough to her to arrest her. Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), is the scene-chewing villain known as Black Mask (also on Montoya’s radar) who wants to rid the city of Quinn and anyone that stands in his way. His right hand man, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), is a serial killer who scars his body each time he kills a victim. Working among the two is Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) who’s a singer in Sionis’ club but receives a promotion to be his personal driver.
Outside of all this chaos, an assassin called Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is killing prominent mafia figures in the city with a crossbow, but no one knows who she is. All these characters are brought together because Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young orphaned thief, steals something valuable to a lot of people. This sets a course of events in motion that pushes everyone to the limit and tests their ability to work together if they want to survive.
From the very beginning, Robbie was the perfect choice for Harley Quinn. However, I don’t think her performance in Suicide Squad was how she envisioned Harley would dress or behave. This time, she seems far more comfortable starring in Birds of Prey since she isn’t relegated to be the cinematic T&A. Rosie Perez, as a seasoned Renee Montoya, is a superb choice because she adds dynamic to this team. I was unsure how Jurnee Smollet-Bell would do as Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, but her origin in the DC cinematic universe is well thought out, and she has one scene she wholly owns. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a crowd pleasing character as Huntress and surprisingly provides much of the comic relief.
I am puzzled by Cassandra Cain as a character, though. She’s the one that is the most divorced from her comic persona. In the comics, she’s part of the Bat-family and a lethal assassin, but based on the relationship she has with Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey, what is her future purpose in this universe if she’s that different from what fans know the character to be? Guess we’ll see as the cinematic universe movies forward.
The action scenes are very crisp and clean; very Hong Kong cinema inspired. The stunt crew from the John Wick films worked on Birds of Prey and it shows. The way director Cathy Yan shoots these scenes, she goes out of her way to show the audience who is doing what, especially Margot Robbie. You don’t need an interview to tell you she did most, if not all, of her stunts. She kicks, flips, slips, and slides across the screen, tossing around guns that shoot bean bags and glitter. In Suicide Squad, they didn’t position Harley as a trained fighter, so the fighting does come out of nowhere, but all the actresses manage to add authenticity to their characters and their fight choreography.
While the film is action-packed, the first act is heavy on the exposition. Quinn, who isn’t necessarily a reliable narrator, does more voice-over work than she does delivering dialogue and it wears out its welcome. Christina Hodson’s screenplay is told in a non-linear fashion that switches timelines so fast you blink, and it’s two weeks earlier, or four minutes before, or two days later. However, halfway through the movie — once the film introduces all the characters, and it moves into the present — Birds of Prey really takes off!
If Robbie explores more films like this, she could have a legit future as an action superstar. I won’t be surprised if she shows up in a future John Wick movie. What she does and is capable of is nothing shy of impressive. We stan a queen with range!
Check out video of the WB Birds of Prey fan event we attended, hosted by AMC theaters. The entire cast, Cathy Yan, and screenwriter Christina Hodson were in attendance!