REVIEW: BIRDS OF PREY is a fun and comedic cinematic romp that rings true to the comics and satisfies as an R-Rated action film.


Margot Robbie delivers as Harley Quinn in a film that boldly delivers on the line between action and comedy that Suicide Squad failed to live up to.

Harley Quinn is one of DC Comics’ most popular characters; right up there with Batman and The Joker in terms of representation among the fanbase and in terms of mainstream popularity. While 2016’s Suicide Squad was largely considered a lackluster film with too many cooks in the kitchen in terms of production, the one thing most everyone involved agreed was that Robbie’s take on Harley Quinn was the breakout character from the film and fans were hungry to see a follow-up featuring Harley, considering the conclusion of Suicide Squad seemed to set up a future Joker/Harley adventure. Now, here we are 4 years later and Robbie’s Harley returns in an R-rated feature directed by Cathy Yan, BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN). This sequel is a case where the wait was well worth it as BIRDS OF PREY is one of the best of the modern DCEU films, taking the fourth-wall-breaking humor resident in the Harley Quinn comic book and translating it for a new audience with a flavor of John Wick-style violent revenge action with the type of absurdist comic book humor you see in films like Deadpool 2.

Birds of Prey kicks off with a cute animated intro letting us know how the score is in Harley’s life post-Suicide Squad. The Joker has dumped her and she’s taken it hard; channeling her rage into roller derby and black-out drinking binges at the bar of noted gangster Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). Harley has kept her break-up on the down-low, as being perceived as The Joker’s girlfriend affords her a degree of invincibility among the Gotham underworld for her public acting out. However, after an ill-fated choice after a night of drinking, word gets out that Harley is single; making it open season for those with an ax to grind against her or The Joker by association. Meanwhile, a mysterious cross-bow wielding assassin (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has made her way to Gotham looking for a lump of flesh, just as Sionis and his henchman are looking to make their big score with a diamond that gets stolen by local pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) which sets off a series of events that drag GCPD detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and the mysterious Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) into the mess that Harley has gotten herself into.

It’s ironic that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is in Birds of Prey, as this is likely the first girl gang revenge film since Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 film Deathproof of which Winstead was also a cast member. In the same vein as Deathproof, Birds of Prey is bound to impress with its exciting action sequences and fight choreography, largely shot by John Wick 1, 2, and 3 director Chad Stahelski working as second-unit director. The fight scenes in this film hold up with those in the Wick series and Atomic Blonde and are visceral as well as filled with a bit of dark humor. The real strength of the film comes in the time given to build up character moments in the ensemble of characters. Robbie’s Suicide Squad suffered from one-dimensional character archetypes whose actions were guided by plot points than any real character arcs. Birds of Prey, in contrast, serves up actions motivated by little character moments throughout and the talent involved chew on those moments and really makes them work. The Mindy Project’s Chris Messina shines as Sionis’ henchman, serial killer Victor Szasz, who has a well-defined loyalty and friendship with McGregor’s insecure and manic Roman Sionis. In previous films, these would likely be throwaway roles, but both McGregor and Messina make the characters seem important regardless of their place in comic book canon. Ditto with Perez’ Montoya and Smolett-Bell’s Black Canary. The Black Canary has been played by multiple characters across TV’s Arrowverse, but Smolett-Bell’s version comes across as established a heroic presence as Batman in this film and puts previous portrayers of the character on blast. Winstead delivers a unique take on a mafioso’s daughter out for vengeance and really pops in what could be a background role. But ultimately, the film is Robbie’s as Harley and she makes the character pop in 3 dimensions. While a wisecracking, fouth-wall breaking crazy criminal comic character would seem to scream as being derivative of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, Robbie outshines Reynolds’ character at his own game and delivers a unique and, at times, relatable protagonist. The film works as a film with character arcs and a solid storyline; it’s not just a pastiche of eye candy for comic fans. Moreover, it’s inclusive of the fan base. While Suicide Squad’s male gaze leering at Robbie’s booty shorts was palpable and gratuitous, Yan and the script by Christina Hodson deliver character moments over ass shots. That’s not to say these women aren’t strong and sexy, but that they are fully realized rather than two-dimensional. Harley Quinn has never been more fun and more kick-ass than she is in Birds of Prey, with an ensemble of interesting characters able to anchor their own films after this strong outing. That’s not to say the film doesn’t have faults, the film’s pacing and structure is a bit gimmicky and undercuts a few character introductions in service of the film’s chosen narrative view. Moreover, the fights scenes are much better shot and edited than some of the character material earlier in the film; most notably in an interrogation sequence with Harley and Roman’s characters that could flow much better. There is also a post-credits audio sequence that seems more of a cheat than something worth sitting for and should have definitely been cut, pre-release.

That being said, BIRDS OF PREY is easily up there with SHAZAM in terms of being one of the best of the DCEU films. The film makes you want to watch multiple spinoffs by its ending and its a triumph for Yan, Robbie, and Dodson that they were able to deliver a film that seamlessly fits in the vein of John Wick, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Thor Ragnarok in terms of balancing humor with action and minting a bunch of lower-tier comic characters into those you’d pay to watch on the big screen again. A job well done for all involved that deserves a rewatch.