REVIEW: ‘Birds of Prey’ is fun, but doesn’t soar high enough

There’s a feeling with this movie that the creative team said ‘we have Harley Quinn, let’s just slap a movie together around that character and it will all work itself out.’

Unfortunately, that doesn’t really happen here.

“Birds of Prey” picks up after the events of the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad” and audiences soon learn that Quinn (Margot Robbie) is no longer together with the criminal mastermind Joker. She’s not exactly able to enjoy her new single life right away, though, as Quinn soon learns that there’s a lot of people, whether it be random individuals or hardened criminals, who want her dead. Now that Joker isn’t with her anymore, those forces have a clear path to Harley.

One of those criminals is Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), who also goes by Black Mask. As Black Mask’s feud with Quinn develops, other characters are drawn in, including a detective named Renee (Rosie Perez), a mysterious assassin in Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and a dangerous singer trained in combat who goes by Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Eventually these figures all become tied in a web that leads back to a young pickpocket named Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco), who stole a jewel that everyone in Gotham is after.

It’s understandable that “Birds of Prey” would be a more unconventional picture considering its main protagonist. However, at some points, the film comes across like it’s just meandering aimlessly.

Maybe it’s because it takes a rather long time for all of the characters to actually come together, but the movie just seems to drag, especially in the second act, with Robbie having to shoulder basically the entire load at points.

Robbie is an incredibly talented actress, but the Quinn character only goes so far, especially when it’s mainly just her. While Quinn does have a few brief interactions here and there, it’s not consistent enough.

The third act does a lot to redeem the movie. The audience gets to spend time with all the characters together, and it’s a lot of fun, especially with a solid finale. However, the journey getting there is rather incoherent and overall creates a mediocre experience.

Courtesy DC Films and Warner Bros. Pictures

The film really lacks in not giving proper development to all of its characters, too. Because the movie is so focused on Quinn, and because the main characters don’t get together right away, not as much time is dedicated to Huntress, Black Canary and the detective.

The movie could have really benefited from going the “Guardians of the Galaxy” route by having all the characters come together early on and get equal development.

The action certainly does deliver for fans of the genre, though. There are some great sequences of combat, especially one taking place in a police evidence room where Quinn is handling a baseball bat like a Jedi wields a lightsaber. It’s well shot, intense action and definitely holds a person’s interest.

The movie, directed by Cathy Yan and shot by Matthew Libatique, has a strong, vibrant, visual identity. There’s a colorful, neon flair in the film from start to finish and it makes for a good viewing experience.

Acting wise, as previously stated, Robbie is a great actress and that’s true here. She plays Quinn really well and has a lot of fun with the role. The one somewhat stealing the show, though, was Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who has some fantastic moments as the assassin Huntress.

While “Birds of Prey” has a good cast and is visually appealing, though, the picture as a whole has issues in the narrative and with how the characters are developed. It has entertainment value, but overall is somewhat underwhelming. 2.75 out of 5.



Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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