There’s no harm in having a second opinion review for high-profile and potentially divisive Birds of Prey. Seeing as it’s positioned such a Girl Power experience, here’s what one of our woman writers thought:
Remember when Suicide Squad came out and it felt like Warner Bros’ clumsy “late to the party” attempt to replicate the successful Guardians of the Galaxy formula? Tonally disjointed scene jumps as a result of reshoots. Shoehorned-in, distracting music. Even if you didn’t absolutely hate Suicide Squad (I personally didn’t), you had to admit it was a hot mess.
Four years later, though, an apparent second attempt at edgy imitation has produced far better results, and we have a legit “DC Deadpool movie” in the form of Suicide Squad’s spin-off-sequel-thingie, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Birds of Prey is a high-energy, unquestionably R-rated romp that combines crunchy, satisfying violence with flashes of sparkly golden heart shining through.
In the lead-up to the film’s release, I wasn’t sold. At least in the first trailer, Birds of Prey looked like one of those manic big-screen efforts where the cast is having more fun than the audience, and the latter is expected to get swept up in the energy. That rarely works. Pre-release, the film Birds of Prey seemed too tonally removed from what I expected an adaptation of the comic to be like. Even the character line-up felt more like an attempt to cash in on Harley Quinn’s popularity than strive for any fidelity to the source material.
I’m pleased to report my preconceptions were completely off the mark. The onscreen Birds of Prey IS Birds of Prey. It’s just told from Harley Quinn’s hyper, unbalanced perspective, which actually makes things a lot more interesting.
Like Harley’s pet hyena Bruce, Birds of Prey is a film unleashed. The actors go all-in with their characters. Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask is enjoyably over the top, until his snaps of malice – squirm-inducing in some scenes, especially for female viewers – make you rethink your stance. Meanwhile, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a scene stealer as the socially awkward Huntress, warped by her unusual upbringing.
Birds of Prey is a brisk 109 minutes, and while the required pace produces some plot wobbles, the film otherwise doesn’t put a foot wrong. Speaking of which, Harley’s combat style is like a dance, and the many fight scenes are beautifully choreographed and coherent. I’m still kind of in shock about how well-put-together the film is – fast and fun, but also very meaty if you apply a magnifying glass to its characters, themes, song choice and settings.
Birds of Prey isn’t a token five-second shot of a bunch of (anti)heroines standing side by side. Put through the costumed hero filter – proving again that superhero movies can be MORE – it’s a legitimate, unlaboured and pioneering tale of female solidarity, and the emancipation of each of these diverse women. Highly recommended.
Last Updated: February 7, 2020