Hear me out. Going into Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), I was a little cautious because I’ve been burned by DC before. I got a third-degree burn when I watched the first Suicide Squad movie and then I was cremated with Justice League. Warner Bros. and DC found a way to revive my love for their films with Aquaman, Shazam! and Joker, so I probably shouldn’t have had a sense of trepidation heading into the theater for Birds of Prey. However, what I saw in the trailers and marketing leading up to my screening didn’t make me as confident in the film as I wanted to be. But boy, was I wrong. I got to attend the world premiere of Birds of Prey in London and I can say that the film was an insane, action-packed thrill ride.
Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey introduces us to a Harley Quinn that’s in a very different place in her life — newly single after breaking up with The Joker. Harley Quinn’s new relationship status puts her in a very difficult position, and no, I’m not talking about internal sadness or depression. I’m talking about her losing the protection of being the Clown Prince of Crime’s lady. When news of her breakup with the Joker spreads across Gotham City, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn ends up on a wacky and insane adventure involving a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, a diamond, Cassandra Cain, Roman Sionis, Victor Zsasz, Dinah Lance, Helena Bertinelli and Renee Montoya.
In Birds of Prey, Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn and she hasn’t missed a step. She returns to the role with the same intensity that she brought in Suicide Squad except this time she’s let loose with an R rating. The film’s rating allows Margot Robbie to deliver a Harley Quinn performance that rivals the likes of Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool and the new characters in the film give her new energy to feed off, making the whole thing a ton of fun to watch. Rosie Perez makes her DC Extended Universe debut as Renee Montoya and she’s a tiny bit different from how she’s written in the comics. However, Renee really works thanks to Perez’s performance. She’s a total badass and probably the best detective in her department until she gets pushed over the edge and sent in a downward spiral that lands her smack in the middle of Roman Sionis’ evil plan.
Then we meet Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance, a.k.a Black Canary. This version of Dinah is a singer at the Black Mask club and she’s a tiny bit tired of working for Sionis. Smollett-Bell delivers my favorite interpretation of the character in this movie. She’s smart, tough, witty and packs a hell of a voice. When things hit the fan, you’re gonna want to see her in action. Speaking of action, the film’s vigilante, Huntress, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is dark and brooding as well as a pretty brutal shot with a crossbow. When she’s with the Birds of Prey she provides a bit of levity, but in the best way. Meanwhile, Ella Jay Basco makes her big screen debut as Cassandra Cain and while she’s a bit altered from her assassin ways from the comics, she’s definitely no slouch. For a kid who hasn’t done a film before, Ella Jay Basco absolutely kills it. The film really starts to get fun when Cassandra puts herself in the crosshairs of Black Mask and Victor Zsasz.
Ewan McGregor plays the villainous Roman Sionis, a.k.a. Black Mask. This Roman is a collector of art and cultures, and he also can really pull off a suit. While his performance can be a little bit over-the-top at times, Black Mask always feels like a legit threat. As the film goes on, Roman becomes a bit unhinged and McGregor transitions to that incredibly well. Black Mask works even better when he’s with his right-hand-man Victor Zsasz. Chris Messina enters the DCEU as Victor Zsasz and while this character is usually an inconsequential Batman villain, he’s got a lot to do in Birds of Prey. Zsasz is Roman’s henchman and a psychotic murderer. Messina plays the character really well and Zsasz comes off as a complete psychopath. All in all, Birds of Prey features a pretty decent ensemble with great performances all around, and the direction and script make me want to see more from this team. I really hope this launches a trilogy.
Overall Thoughts: Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey is a violently hilarious time at the movies. With its thrilling action and terrifying villains, DC Films lands another knockout blow. Fans worried that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn would take the spotlight away from the Birds of Prey should have nothing to fear. Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Mary Elizabeth Winstead deliver awesome performances as Black Canary and Huntress, respectively. Birds of Prey probably isn’t suited for young children due to its violence, gore and language, but you can definitely watch it for yourself as a little treat.