Review: The Wild and Wacky Ride of “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”

Photo ©Warner Bros Pictures

If you walked into “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” hoping for a fun rated-R girl gang team up, you’re going to have to wait until the last third of the movie. If you’re looking to shut your brain off for a few hours to a fun action flick with friends, you’ve come to the right place. It was definitely a wild ride from start to finish, but sometimes it was hard to hold on.

Titled “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” initially, the film stars Margot Robbie as the titular Harley Quinn, who recently broke up for good with her on again off again boyfriend, the Joker. The Joker himself doesn’t make an appearance in the film. However, his presence still remains in the movie. It even drives the actions of Harley, from “their special place” (a nearby chemical plant in Gotham) to nearly every enemy in the city going after her since she doesn’t have his protection anymore.

The first half of the movie felt like one long exposition train. Some of it was essential, as it showed Harley Quinn trying to get back on her feet after breaking things off with the Joker, or the backstories of the other key characters in the film. For example, Renee Montoya (played by Rosie Perez), the cop that tries to catch Harley, or Dinah Lance (a.k.a. Black Canary, played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a singer at a club owned by the main antagonist. However, the jumping back and forth through time, while helpful understanding the context, felt jarring and often very confusing.

Each member of the team Harley assembles at the end of the movie has a connection to either her or the film’s main villain. Harley, who was on a first-name basis with him, Dinah, who was his nightclub-singer-turned-personal-driver, and Helena Bertinelli (a.k.a. The Huntress, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who witnessed her family being murdered by the villain’s men when she was a young girl.

The film’s main villain, Roman Sionis (played by Ewan McGregor), is on the hunt for a diamond, which has a unique code engraved into it that unlocks a massive fortune of a once-wealthy family, after pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) stole it. However, once she gets caught by the police, she swallows it for safekeeping. What follows is a wild, Technicolor ride of different people wanting Cassandra for various reasons.

The person who gets to her first is Harley, as Roman ordered her to get the diamond by midnight, or else. However, Harley doesn’t turn her in and soon becomes her mentor-figure–for a few hours at least. This was another part of the film that seemed to falter with me. There didn’t seem to be enough time dedicated to building these relationships between the different characters, particularly between Harley and Cassandra. While they were able to get a mentor-mentee/best friends/parental relationship, it felt rushed. Then, it all seemed to be for nothing, as Harley’s home gets destroyed and she has to turn Cassandra in to keep herself safe.

While the film advertised itself as a girl-gang-power movie, I sadly didn’t get that feeling. It felt like a bunch of different films awkwardly colliding at the end. The parts of the film where the whole team were interacting and fighting together were significant. Still, there just wasn’t enough time dedicated to creating the chemistry between any of them. Except maybe Harley and Cassandra, and Dinah and Renee, albeit barely. The battle at the finale where the five main characters teamed up was great. Still, the relationships felt forced and almost anti-climatic. 

Despite all of this, there were many great and memorable parts of the film. Mary Elizabeth Winstead did an excellent job playing an extremely awkward vigilante avenging her family’s death. In fact, each character was able to bring something different to the film, which made it super enjoyable to watch. Another good thing to note is that you don’t need to see Suicide Squad (2016) to understand the characters in this movie.

Another great thing was the bright, vivid color scheme. Every scene looked like a four-year-old (or Harley herself) was given five packs of crayons, markers, glitter, and paints, and left unsupervised for an hour or so. This was great, as it was a nice contrast to other DC films for being so dark and not as colorful. Even the battle at the finale in an old amusement park had bright lights and bold colors.

Finally, the fight scenes in this film were actually really fantastic. They felt different than fight scenes in other movies, and you really got to see each character’s unique fighting style. Plus, the banter during the fight was a joy to watch. 

All in all, I’d give Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey a 6.5/10, but I’d recommend you see if for yourself. Like I said, if you go in wanting a girl power action flick, you’d get it, but have to wait a while for the big team up at the end. If you go in wanting DC comics action, you’ve got it. Despite all that, I had a good time watching the movie. What can I say, I’m a sucker for girl power movies. 

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