BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) – Review
By Marc Butterfield
BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) tells the tale of Harley Quinn’s break up with The Joker, and how she comes to work alongside four other female characters to take down a common enemy, The Black Mask.
As a long-time fan of DC Comics, I’d say that director Cathy Yan kept the characters pretty close to their comic roots; Harley has gone from villain to anti-hero, Huntress’ origin is spot on, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead has her portrayal nailed, while Rosie Perez delivered us a Renee Montoya that is exactly as many comic book fans always thought she would be (and I am not normally a Rosie Perez fan). Black Canary is a little bit of a departure in both look and origin, and that is probably good, since a white chick in fishnets calling herself “Black” anything is not only not PC, but also maybe a little dated and silly, but they kept her powers the same, and used them conservatively enough that it didn’t feel like the metahuman was running the show. Jurnee Smollett-Bell has such a great voice, and may come off more natural than the others at times, thanks to her not over acting the role. The biggest change to the characters is Cassandra Cain, and that’s only because she seems too young and doesn’t have the backstory at all.
There are a bunch of other characters, but Ewan McGregor absolutely slays it as Roman Sionis, doing a scarily great job at being psychotic, I mean just flat-out nuts, in a way that’s both amusing and scary at the same time. Casual audiences probably haven’t heard of Black Mask, a Batman villain introduced in 1985, but they won’t likely forget him by the end of this movie.
It’s hard to tell you more than that, without inserting spoilers, but lets attempt it. Harley is still funny, and crazy, yet shows glimpses of exactly how smart she really is, and in a very “Deadpool” kinda way, breaks the 4th wall multiple times (there are more than a few similarities to Deadpool and Harley that are noticeable). The director does a pretty good job of knitting the four sub-stories together eventually, although all of the jumping from present to past could probably have been reduced a little. The only character that wasn’t fleshed out enough was Cassandra Cain, but Elly Jay Basco made her both streetwise and vulnerable, though it’s very hard to see her as Batgirl or Orphan, two of her comic hero names in the future. Who knows.
Birds of Prey would be a great franchise with Perez, Winstead and Smollett-Bell, since these 3 had great chemistry and were so different from one another that it has a real girl power vibe, without it feeling forced, and was multi cultural enough to make everyone feel included, and the characters build each other up nicely.
All in all it is a good movie, and certainly an action franchise-ready offering. Spend your money here, you won’t regret it. It’s a wild ride and a lot of fun, enough that you won’t feel cheated by spending the money now rather than waiting to NetFlix or Redbox it.
2 out of 4 stars