Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020)

“You don’t know who that is? The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime. My former partner in madness. The Harlequin of Hate. The Jester of Genocide. You’ve never heard of him?”“You don’t know who that is? The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime. My former partner in madness. The Harlequin of Hate. The Jester of Genocide. You’ve never heard of him?”

“You don’t know who that is? The Joker. The Clown Prince of Crime. My former partner in madness. The Harlequin of Hate. The Jester of Genocide. You’ve never heard of him?”

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is a mouthful of a title. Changing it to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey sounds better and is much easier to say out loud without fumbling the words. Harley Quinn as a character is an interesting choice to give a feature film to because in a nutshell, she’s a supervillain’s sidekick. She poses no absolute threat to Batman or anyone else in the Justice League and is thought of more as a team player than a solo agent of destruction. That mindset changed with David Ayers Suicide Squad and the perfect casting of Margot Robbie In titular role. What has also taken a turn in the past few years is the inclusion of female creators and female lead films in the likes of Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel.

The previous film released by Warner and DC is the Oscar nominated Joker (which is a standalone film from the shared universe) but nonetheless the quality and tonal shift between these two films is enormous. Granted both are given the R rating but with that R rating comes more freedom to tell a more complete story of the respective characters. Recapping the events that got her to this point in time in animated fashion, Harley (Margot Robbie) has had enough with her toxic relationship with Joker. If only the tabloids were covering the split the same as if a celebrity couple got divorced. The breakup is not easy for Harley, she cuts her hair (the same way we all did during quarantine), she gives herself a tattoo, buys a hyena (named Bruce after that hunky Wayne guy), joins a roller derby team, and downs a lot of fake cheese products.

Harley learns of a diamond owned by the Gotham crime family the Bertinelli’s which is engraved with the family’s fortune. Little does Harley know that a young pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) has swallowed the precious diamond after picking it off of Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) who is employed by Roman Sionis / Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). In pursuit of the diamond is Helena Bertinelli / Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is being pursued by Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) for murders across Gotham. Last but not least is Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) who has Cassandra’s best interest at heart by not wanting to see her gutted by Zsasz and Black Mask.

“I had to find a new identity. A new me. It wasn’t easy. But after a while, I even opened myself up to the possibility of new love. Here’s the thing about new love, you have to feed it.”

With all these characters thrown in the mix there is a lot to introduce and set up which seems to be DC’s M.O. with their universe.  Birds of Prey with Harley’s narration goes the Deadpool route of breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience directly – even giving the Jim Halpert look to camera. It can be difficult to feel fully invested in each Bird of Prey as the script written by Christina Hodson is overly crowded to develop these characters fully. There glimpses here and there of personality and motive but not enough to root for them individually or as a team.  You want to see Huntress get revenge for her family or Renee to stand up to her boss who screwed her over, but this is ultimately Harley’s world and we’re all just living in it. 

Margot’s performance is the only one that holds any merit in Birds of Prey. Chris Messina gives a peculiar performance of Victor Zsasz, but the character is wasted with no real purpose added to the story. He’s a Pitbull that has hardly any bite to him. Same with Roman Sionis – Ewan gives a decent performance, but the character is too over-the-top and acts like a showman to be seen as a real threat to any superhero. He just exists to be a thorn in someone’s side.

Birds of Prey is an acid trip disguised as a comic book movie. So many moving pieces and breaks in narrative (what little of it there actually is) to start a side story or go back further in the past gives this attempt a lot more ground to cover than the average superhero film. The best scene in the entire film involves two eggs, American cheese, a splash of hot sauce and a bun. Queue up the saliva, that egg sandwich is to die for. The tragic passing of said sandwich left me more upset than Roman slicing faces off. Believe me, I know my egg sandwiches, I’m from New York, there is nothing like it elsewhere.  

Looking at Birds of Prey it has to be understood that the focus is less on the plot (which is razor thin to begin with) and the boring story but on the absurd anarchy sandbox where all these characters live and play in. The theatrics of breaking up with Joker and letting the world know it by driving a truck through Ace Chemicals. Given the type of character Harley is, it’s shocking she didn’t film the explosion and upload it to YouTube. The film does lean into the damsel in distress trope but in all honesty did Harley ever need any protection. She’s purely capable of holding her own in a fight with her vast amounts of bats and mallets in her arsenal. Add a little white powder and she is nearly unstoppable. 

“For all your noise and bluster, you’re just a silly little girl with no one around to protect her.”

Birds of Prey’s fight scenes become too excessive after the first one lands its punches. The distinct style of choreography gets old quickly with the slow motion and micro pauses that lets the audience know that this is completely bad ass. Similar with Kingsman: The Golden Circle where the entire movie used the fighting style gimmick of the first one. It gets overused that leads to unoriginality. 

Birds of Prey is Harley’s coming of age story. She breaks all the restrictions that held her back (mainly just Joker) and finds her true purpose. There is absolutely no one better to fill the shoes of Harley Quinn than Margot Robbie. She has made this character her own and understands Harley to her core. It’s unfortunate this film is just ok since DC went on a mini streak of great films, but the buck stops here. The ideas are there, they just weren’t executed nor given the opportunity to succeed. With a continuation of an identity crisis and poor villains, Birds of Prey will land closer to the bottom of what DC has put out in their “Shared” answer of a universe to the MCU. If I were to rate Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, I’d rate it a 3 out of 5.  

So, tell me guys, have you seen Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is directed by Cathy Yan is Rated R and has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey was released on February 7, 2020 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 49 minutes. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey can be streamed on HBO Max and purchased by online retailers like iTunes, Google, and Amazon.

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