“I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and makes a six-inch-diameter exit wound in you.” -Harley Quinn
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)… what a mouthful. As for the movie itself I wish I could say it’s another redeemer in the long line of DC movie failures but it’s not, nor is it as bad as say Suicide Squad or Batman v Superman – it’s simply put, fine. There are issues plaguing it but enough of what makes this particular character popular shines through lifting the movie from unbearable to fun with flaws. It’s one of those experiences I enjoyed but don’t really ever intend to go through again, once was more than enough.
What works with Birds of Prey is basically what worked with Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn, or more particularly Margot Robbie’s performance of her. I wouldn’t consider Robbie as Harley to be a game changer, one of those iconic performances cementing her in the same arena as say Ford as Indiana Jones or Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, but I would argue that her take on the comic character is one not replaced anytime soon or with any kind of ease. Long story short, she once again nails this character. She balances wonderfully a comedic but welcoming personality without ever losing the ferocity and tenacity of someone who at the end of the day, no matter how likeable they may be at times, is still a murderous psychopath; Robbie delves into the complexities of this character brilliantly. I would say that the film tries to water down the more extreme nature of this character’s diabolical behavior in favor of a more hero with issues approach rather than outright villain. Like Disney looks beyond what pirates were actually like opting for a more family friendly swashbuckler, DC does the same with Harley Quinn.
A definite distraction is the plot lacking in anything remotely interesting or original. A diamond is stolen from a really bad guy, like seriously dubious and such, and he wants it back and Harley is forced to run this errand of his. You’ve heard of variations of this premise a thousand times before. Another issue with the plot is letting the story’s main character, with all her mental instability, narrate and essentially control the direction of the plot, making this as incoherent at times as the character herself. At least twice she introduces a story detail in need of backtracking for greater clarification thus taking any pacing of the film and nearly bringing it to a complete stop. She’s scatterbrained and it would make sense that her storytelling ability would be so as well. You might argue her incoherent narration makes sense and you wouldn’t be wrong exactly but when it comes to a plot that makes any kind of sense she’s a hindrance to the overall goal of telling an interesting story.
Another problem I have with this movie is the title, as it alludes to a team-up of sorts and while that does technically happen it doesn’t begin to take shape until the third act, the final part of the third act to be exact. This is without question a Harley Quinn movie, not an ensemble movie like the title might have you believe. I would say the most prominent story element is Harley Quinn trying to find herself after Joker and what that might look like. Can she find an identity that has nothing to do with the clown prince? The whole diamond thing is kind of a forced plot device in order to give the existence of this movie a reason to be. And when they do show these other characters whether it be her future cohorts or the villain to upend their villainy (?) they’re never given their proper time to develop as characters or more importantly characters we should care about.
I had no hope for this one so with expectations so low I don’t think this movie had anywhere to go but up. Thing is, I would say it didn’t rise to the heights of Wonder Woman or Shazam if we’re sticking with DC properties. Too much hinders what does work from becoming something better, something worth the effort of hoping for this whole thing to just… work. Margot Robbie proves again this is her role, she does it all from the twisted comedy to the action packed sequences actually shot with a wide lense, this is her movie. I had fun with it but so much distracted me from truly letting loose with a character so demanding of breaking the metaphorical shackles. Wonder Woman left me wanting more, as did Shazam, not so much here. I wouldn’t mind seeing Harley Quinn again but maybe in an actual ensemble film where her character isn’t holding up the entire film on her shoulders – The Suicide Squad… I’m looking at you.
Rated R For: strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Runtime: 109 minutes
After Credits Scene: No? (Yes but not really) I’ll let you decide for yourself if you want to wait for the end credits.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Directed By: Cathy Yan
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 2.5/ Acting: 3.5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 3 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: I’ll probably pass on this one.
Check out the trailer below:
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