What you need to know: Birds is a stylish action-comedy that is sort of thin on plot but is still a fun ride. Each of the Birds get a little time to shine here but this is clearly a Harley Quinn movie. Margot Robbie plays Harley Quinn with the same brand of spirited craziness she did in 2016’s “Suicide Squad” except she’s a tad more heroic here. In short, after breaking up with the Joker, Harley ultimately teams up with the Birds to protect/save a young pickpocket artist from a crime lord (Ray Sionis a.k.a Black Mask) who she has stolen something valuable from.
What I liked
- Birds of Prey is refreshing in how different it feels to other comic book movies. It’s not structured like an origin movie, thank god, instead using flashbacks to introduce each of its main players, before advancing the diamond McGuffin plot that brings its characters together.
- Birds of Prey’s real highlights are in its impressive action sequences. A baseball bat set piece will immediately put you in the mindset of John Wick (director Chad Stahelski worked on reshoots for this movie), and like those films, the action here is coherent, exciting and beautifully choreographed.
- Harley definitely gets a satisfying journey: the way the movie explores the aftermath of her toxic relationship with the Joker and how she recovers her self-worth is handled well, and the movie still doesn’t really frame her as a redeemable character, which is to its credit.
- The wider cast is mostly great, especially Perez as good-cop-turned-drunk-vigilante Montoya and the bratty performance of Basco’s Cain as Harley’s charge.
What I didn’t
- Huntress and Dinah Lance, who are played up as cool characters, but aren’t really given much life by their abrupt origin stories in the film.
- It’s a criticism you can level at 90% of superhero movies, but Birds of Prey is a little too superficial. There aren’t any real twists to its main story, and not every character in the ensemble gets a truly interesting arc, which is a weakness when they’re teaming up a bunch of unknown characters with one we already know.
- You also don’t get nearly enough of the Birds of Prey interacting, which is the lifeblood of any superhero team movie. Maybe a sequel could build on that.
- It feels like the film faced a tricky decision during development – whether to tell a story solely from the perspective of Harley Quinn, or build team movie – and never came up with a firm answer. The result is a broken structure that shortchanges what should be key players. By the end of Birds Of Prey you’ll definitely think Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress is fantastic, but you’ll also find yourself wishing the blockbuster didn’t wait until the third act to solidify her place in the narrative.
Bottom line: This is the sort of movie that’s still likely to speak to a portion of its audience, though – especially younger women. It also deserves credit for committing to being a madcap comedy. While it has sincere moments, particularly in the relationship between Harley and her young charge Cain, this is mostly worth watching for the fights, jokes and eventual team-up.