Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (MA) – 109 minutes
Updated: Feb 17
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn makes the most of her starring role as the Joker’s former squeeze whose only way of dealing with the breakup is to wreak havoc in Gotham City in her own right.
She has charisma and chutzpah to burn and she is undoubtedly the bright star in a fantasy that has much going for it until about two thirds of the way through when it loses its way.
Birds of Prey is, indeed, a twisted tale, as told by Harley herself.
Harleen Quinzel is a former psychiatrist who became a crazed criminal and the Joker’s accomplice and girlfriend. Now she is on the path to becoming a solo vigilante.
She parties at a club owned by Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), a sadistic gangster with cruel tendencies.
It is there that she meets Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a burlesque singer who works for Sionis and someone who knows how to handle herself in a fight. She, in fact, rescues an intoxicated Harley.
The meat of the story unfolds when Sionis puts a $500,000 bounty on a young orphan’s head – a pickpocket, Cassandra Cain (newcomer Ella Jay Basco) – who has doubled crossed him after she stole a super expensive diamond for him.
Now that Harley is no longer under the Joker’s protective custody, Sionis is happy to do away with her, but in a last-ditch effort to save herself, she promises to get the diamond back for him if he frees her.
Harley also encounters a disgruntled Gotham City detective, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), who is building a case against Sionis and Helena Bertinelli – aka Huntress – (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) another vigilante who is the orphaned daughter of a Mafia gangster.
The script is by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), with direction from Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs).
It’s a great set up, starting with a brief cartoon story introduction.
Birds of Prey is slick, sassy and off the wall, with Robbie seemingly revelling in every morsel of her badness. No doubt, it is a showy, “look at me” performance.
As colourful as their characters are, the other actors don’t reach the same heights.
Smollett-Bell is the best of them as Sionis’ songstress and reluctant driver searching for a way out.
Harley Quinn tries to build up the significance of police officer Montoya, but Perez’s impact in the role isn’t as strong as it could have been.
Winstead also fails to convince, especially with a couple of lines which appear wooden in their delivery.
I also found Basco limp as the underage thief.
McGregor exudes an animation-like appreciation for violence, specifically face peeling. I was less convinced about his scarred underling Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), who doesn’t have the same charisma.
There are some wonderfully choreographed action sequences In Birds of Prey, although the showdown between Roman Sionis and his large posse of cronies and “the girls” is decided weak and unbelievable.
Their kick butt heroics would feel more at home in the ‘60s television series Batman.
So, I delighted in the tongue in cheek humour and slick writing, but was disappointed how my appreciation of a fun film fell away in the run home.
Rated MA, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn scores a 7 to 7½ out of 10.