Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn  movie poster

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

In theaters February 7, 2020



109 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , , , ,

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn isn’t a movie you go into thinking you’re going to get in-depth philosophical character development, moody sets, or even an engaging plot. It’s pretty bananas, and full of some slightly bonkers action sequences. If you’re going to compare it to Suicide Squad (2016) (which I haven’t seen), I don’t know if you’ll weigh this one as better or worse.

Harley Quinn (Margo Robbie) and the Joker have parted company, and she’s not taking it well. She’s looking to make her way in the world, built on her name alone. However, every enemy she’s ever made (on his behalf) is now gunning for her. This makes up the bulk of the first half of the movie.

The rest of Birds of Prey is an unevenly layered stack of ensemble cast members who need to learn to set aside their quirky differences and come together to save young pickpocket, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), from certain disembowelment. Dinah/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), works for Gotham mob boss, Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), first as a singer in one of his clubs, then as a “driver.” Trope-y, poorly written former GPD homicide detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), stumbles into the group with her brand of “detective” work. And the mysterious and thematically out-of-place cross-bow killer, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who’s attitude belongs in a Dark Knight movie. That’s six characters in 109 minutes, and Harley still needs her screen time, because it is, after all, her movie. We have a few-too-many characters to track, and a few get forgotten along the way. In this case, Roman Cassie, and Renee.

Birds of Prey wants to be a Girl Power collective of camaraderie and companionship. Still, it’s a fractured flock of flailing fraternization – something DC is unable to do well – build mythology, add value with back story and action, and create a successful franchise that people talk about with praise, not scorn.  Despite the apparent notes taken from Marvel films, DC wants to make several different figures and jam them into a cohesive movie. While Birds of Prey has existed in previous forms, that world-building took several episodes. It takes time to start a cinematic universe, and weaving both fan service and originality into something that everyone can enjoy is a lot of effort with complicated outlines. It takes years. DC (still) hasn’t shown the patience to make that work

Birds of Prey is a complex bouquet of recognizable flowers (Harley). Some exotics we know by name but haven’t seen before (Huntress, Black Canary), a skewer of shrimp (Question), and a rock (Black Mask).

The saving grace of Birds of Prey has to be the soundtrack, from grrrl classics of Heart’s “Barracuda,” to songs like Charlotte Lawrence’s “Jokes on You” which is super reminiscent of Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” I look forward to purchasing it.

This is not to say that Birds of Prey isn’t fun. It’s a wild ride! Darkly comic and colorful, and the action is engaging without being too over-the-top (you know how superhero movies can get). I had a good time and enjoyed my popcorn, even if the dialogue seemed muted and jumbled, and the story felt a teeny bit empty.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is rated R for swears, fighting, explosions, violence against women, violence against knees, violence against egg sandwiches, people getting stabbed with knives, and people getting shot with arrows.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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