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Birds of Prey Movie Review: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is kick-ass and BOP is apology for Suicide Squad.

Modified On: 07 February 2020 | Reviewed By:

Combining all the ingredients that make comic book bros break out in hives, Birds of Prey is a candy-colored curveball of a movie that doubles as a feminist fable and an apology for the poorly received Suicide Squad.

Birds of Prey

Director: Cathy Yan | Music Director:

Birds of Prey Movie Poster

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Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor 

Directed By: Cathy Yan

The wonderful Robbie reprises her role as Quinn from Suicide Squad, in as many candy colors and riots of pinks and greens. Joker, never seen but almost too frequently invoked, has broken up with her, for the final time, and she decides to venture out on her own. The problem is half of Gotham with grievances against her is after her. That includes Roman Sionis (a delectable McGregor) who fashions himself as the new Gotham Godfather. There is a diamond, the key to a fortune, an angry heiress, a disenchanted cop, a singer with a killer voice, and a child pickpocket who finds herself caught up in all this.

Harley’s trajectory from reluctant singleton to professional vigilante involves a bunch of female wayfarers: police officer Renee (Rosie Perez), who is constantly passed over for credit at her workplace, nightclub singer Dinah (Jurnee Smollet-Bell)¸the mysterious crossbow-wielding Helena (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and the young pickpocket Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco). The excuse for assembling these disparate women is the smooth and sinister Roman Sinions (Ewan McGregor), who seeks to extend his empire by grabbing a whatsit with the power to unlock immense fortune and unbridled power.

Once again played by Margot Robbie, Harley is having a difficult time getting over the Joker, with whom she has broken up sometime between the events of this film and Suicide Squad. But she hasn’t told anyone yet — partly because she’s still in denial, but more importantly, being the Joker’s girlfriend afforded her a certain immunity in the seedier corners of Gotham City, immunity that Harley is convinced she’ll lose the second she announces that she is no longer under Mr. J’s protection. 

Birds of Prey is essentially the story of Harley emerging from under the Joker’s shadow. Much has been written about the emotional abuse Harley has had to suffer as the Joker’s partner in crime over the years — in comics, video games, and cartoon shows. But by removing the Clown Prince of Crime (the Harlequin of Hate, the Jester of Genocide) entirely from the narrative, Yan and her writer, Christina Hodson avoid confronting some of the more interesting aspects of their relationship.

Hodson’s screenplay channels the early films of Guy Ritchie, complete with a valuable MacGuffin, snazzy visual graphics, and an overly complicated, non-linear structure. She even has Robbie serve as a relatively reliable narrator and our guide in this densely populated world. The trio of women charged with spearheading the film — Yan, the director; Hodson, the writer; and Robbie, the producer — inject the film with a spirit of pride. It’s the sort of film in which one character, sensing another’s discomfort during a fight, offers her a scrunchie to keep the hair out of her eyes. In another scene, a character admires a cohort’s ability to fight in tight pants.

Birds of Prey gives Harley a new direction, but they need to soft-pedal her journey of self-discovery and locate her in a crowd of similarly put-down women means that she doesn’t evolve too much beyond Suicide Squad. Harley has a bigger canvas to play with, more heads to bash in and more things to blow up, and Margot Robbie’s spunk and charisma ensure that Harley’s nihilism retains an edge of humanity. 

Birds of Prey delivers a satisfying action spectacle led by women, but poignancy is the one element missing in the make-up of its addle-brained heroine. The seriousness that accompanied the Joker’s latest outing is sacrificed for ultraviolet and ultraviolent mayhem laced with feminist-lite assertions about how girls can have fun too.

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