'Birds of Prey' Review: A Harley Quinn-centric movie whose aesthetic hits you like a glitter bomb to the face
The movie has an iconic visual style but is definitely more Harley Quinn's film than it is about the Birds of Prey
Spoiler alert for 'Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)'
To get a few things out of the way, this movie is not, strictly speaking, a superhero movie, despite costumes, and villains, and DC logos slapped over all the promotion. Nor is it a Birds of Prey movie. A more accurate title would have been something along the lines of "Harley Quinn: The Movie - Introducing the Birds of Prey!" because it is definitely Harley Quinn's (Margot Robbie) film. It's not a Deadpool movie either, despite a few fourth-wall breaks, a scattered narration and bone-breaking violence. What this film is most importantly not, however, is anything like any comic book-related movie you've seen before.
The movie is pop-punk glitter glam with the very best of what a superhero franchise budget has to offer. It is a constant delight to the eyes between the visual effects, the cinematography, the sets, the costumes and the action. The sheer amount of style that this movie brings is nothing short of iconic, and the movie has all the fun it can have getting there. There is a scene that sees Harley Quinn attack a police precinct with vivid blue-and-red smoke canisters and glitter bombs shot right into cops' faces. It's the acidic coloring aesthetic that 'Suicide Squad' wishes it had but was too rushed, choppy, and forced to get right.
Margot Robbie's Hot Topic Harley Quinn look from 'Suicide Squad' was an instant hit, and cosplaying fans are going to have a field day with the many iconic looks she sports in this film. Costume designer Erin Benach has outdone herself in this movie, as between Dinah Lance's (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) drop-dead gorgeous looks, Harley Quinn's DIY chaotic, sparkly ensembles and the Huntress' (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) sheer functional badassery, live-action comic book characters have never looked this good.
The action is its own unique beast. The movie earns its R-rating not with gore, but with the sheer impact of its violence. It's set up and shot in ways that amplify the violence, that knows what hits, and what moments deserve the spotlight. And the film makes sure that it gets it. Each of the Birds of Prey have their own unique fighting style, as well.
The story of 'Birds of Prey' is, on paper, pretty straightforward. Harley Quinn and the Joker have broken up, and the protections she's enjoyed as the Joker's Girlfriend are starting to fade away. In order to keep her head, she offers to recover the Bertinelli diamond, which has been stolen by local pickpocket, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Also on the case is Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and a lounge singer informant with hidden depths, Dinah Lance. The Huntress is mysteriously tangential to the movie's main plot, but not distractingly so.
Ewan McGregor is having the time of his life as the cruel and misogynistic Roman Sionis, and his right-hand man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) is just creepy enough for his eventual comeuppance to be especially satisfying. Viewers should be warned, however, of one particularly disturbing scene involving sexual assault under threat meant to highlight Roman's need to establish dominance. It's a scene that the film could maybe have done without, as Black Mask is otherwise a delightfully uncomplicated villain with very understandable motivations: money, and power.
As mentioned earlier, this is definitely Harley Quinn's movie. The other players come together for the film's third act, and considering both how the movie was billed, and how much fun the women are when they're finally together on screen, the biggest weakness of 'Birds of Prey' is how sidelined the Birds of Prey are. Fans are going to have to wait for a sequel to get the 'Birds of Prey' movie they deserve, but this film does serve as a memorable appetizer.
It's hard to imagine this movie being anymore fun, or for that matter, looking any better. 'Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)' is a spectacle, featuring a collection of entertaining, badass women done right. It's a gamechanger in a world of largely similar superhero films, and is a film that is definitely worth your time.
'Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)' is now playing in cinemas worldwide.