“Now that I’ve cut ties with Mr. J, I’m finding out a lot of people want me dead,” says Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in a voiceover describing her story of becoming emancipated in Gotham City in the comic book-inspired action-comedy, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
The film begins with Harley Quinn spilling the beans about her breakup with the clown prince of crime, The Joker. Now that Quinn is no longer his girl, it’s open season on her life. Every low-life and thug she ever hurt or wronged wants her dead.
Quinn finds herself on the run and attempting to stay a step ahead of the evil, narcissistic crime lord Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who wants to kill her for nothing more than entertainment.
Desperate to stay alive, Quinn ultimately makes a deal with Roman to help find a young pickpocket named Cass (Ella Jay Basco). Cass stole something priceless from Roman’s right-hand man, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Quinn needs to retrieve it and return it to Roman.
While searching for Cass, Harley crosses paths with vigilante Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), rogue cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Roman’s club singer Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). After several turns of events, Harley Quinn finds herself needing to team up with the three deadly women to try to save Cass from Roman and bring the crime lord down.
Looney, loud, and chaotic, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a sassy, scatterbrained, and manic adventure that’s partly saved by the performances of Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor. The film is, basically, an R-rated live-action cartoon.
Robbie’s performance as Quinn is the best thing about the film. Robbie, who first played the character in the dismal film Suicide Squad, brings back to life the character that was originated in Batman: The Animated Series in September 1992 with intense energy and a comical edge. It’s an even bigger, wilder, and funnier performance by Robbie this time out.
Ewan McGregor delivers an amusing, over-the-top performance as Gotham’s East End crime lord Roman Sionas, aka Black Mask, who’s looking to extend his control over Gotham and eliminate Harley for kicks. McGregor inserts a flamboyant comic flare into Black Mask, a character that could have been a simple one-dimensional heavy-handed gangster.
Sadly, the film’s plot is predictable and the rest of the characters are one-dimensional. Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell are wasted portraying DC characters who are far more interesting in the comics and graphic novels. Also, fans of the Birds of Prey comics and early 2000’s television show are sure to be disappointed because the film is really not an origin story of how these powerful women join forces and become Gotham’s new crime fighters but instead is a stand-alone film for the further zany antics of Harley Quinn.
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)‘s full of action but none of the scenes feel impressive or original, and become extremely cartoonish as the film continues. Working in the movie’s favor, the look and production design is flashy and bright.
Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a nutty, raucous, and larger-than-life movie that’s partially entertaining thanks to Robbie’s performance.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material
Release Date: February 7, 2020
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
Directed By: Cathy Yan