Birds of Prey is bonkers movie that works in fits and starts. It has some wonderful highs that emerge from a muddled narrative. It has a kitchen sink approach to its story and subject. Throw everything in and see what works.
The film follows Harley Quinn, a comic book villain who is the paramour of Batman’s greatest nemesis The Joker. She first appeared in the truly awful film Suicide Squad played by Margot Robbie. Margot Robbie is fantastic in this role. She devours every frame with glee. She is having an absolute ball playing this part and it shows through every time she’s on screen. Harley breaks up with the Joker in the opening credits. He took her from a tough yet sensitive criminal psychologist to a psychotic super villain and without him in her life, she is left trying to pick up the pieces of her identity.
That’s her story. There is a plethora of additional characters in this movie to get through. After a life of crime and cruelty to those around her, she has made a great deal of enemies. Without the Joker protecting her it’s open season on Harley. Everyone wants to take her out including Roman Sionis, played by Ewan McGregor. McGregor is completely unhinged in this movie. He is a ball of insecurities hiding underneath some extremely grotesque violent tendencies. His performance here is at times fun, at times, horrifying, and at times completely magnetic. It’s fun to see a character in a movie that is truly surprising. You never know what he’s going to do when he shows up on screen.
Roman hires a singer named Black Canary to be his chauffeur after watching her fight off a couple of thugs who were trying to take advantage of a drunken Harley. She is just trying to get by and stay out of it, but the more she sees of Roman, the more she gets involved. Roman’s big problem in the movie is retrieving a diamond from a pick pocket. The whole back story with the diamond is dumb. It’s just dumb plotting. I won’t even get into it except to say that it is just a dumb plot device and isn’t worth getting into. He’s after it. She’s stolen it. The pick pocket gives a bad performance. She is wooden, stiff, and unnatural throughout.
A character that isn’t bland however, is Huntress played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It is fun watching her character unfold throughout the movie. To say more would give too much away. Suffice to say, she is awesome and should have her own movie. Last but not least is Renee Montoya a detective who speaks in 80’s cop cliches. She’s fun, but not much is done with her aside from the cliches bit.
That is a lot of characters and the movie takes a lot of its runtime shuffling them around and trying to get them into position for the climactic confrontation. It’s a great confrontation. The finale is fun and wild and unique, but it takes a long time to get there.
In the end, this movie was fun. There’s enough charm here to get through the lackluster elements, and the performances from Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor are more than worth it. It’s a messy, violent, and funny movie. Is it a great movie? No, but for the most part it is my cup of tea – B+