MoviesPositive (Worth Seeing)

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

Community Rating: 85.01% (3)

“Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is part origin story, part reintroduction, and is of the ilk of Marvel’s “Deadpool.”


Director(s)Cathy Yan
Screenplay ByChristina Hodson
Date Released (Theatrical)2/6/2020
Genre(s)Comedy, Crime, Action, Adventure
Duration1 Hour, 49 Minutes
Noted Cast
Harley QuinnMargot Robbie
Roman Sionis (Black Mask)Ewan McGregor
Cassandra CainElla Jay Basco
Victor ZsaszChris Messina
Dinah Lance (Black Canary)Jurnee Smollett-Bell
Renee MontoyaRosie Perez
Helena Bertinelli (The Huntress)Mary Elizabeth Winstead

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Summary/ Review (Ending Spoilers on 2nd Page)

In this continuation from “Suicide Squad,” one Harleen Quinzel, aka Harley Quinn, takes full advantage of now being the star of her own film. First, by giving us a quick reminder of her growing up in a crappy home, then with nuns, the fact she is a doctor, and also is a woman who has had a string of heartbreaks with men and women. Following this, she quickly recaps the rise and fall of her relationship with Joker and then things begin.

How? Well, with the end of her relationship with Joker which, for quite some time, protected Harley, so comes the realization no one likes her. In fact, most have grievances, which makes her someone that many want to be killed. Luckily for her, however, one Roman Sionis, also known as Black Mask, creates an opportunity for Harley to maybe save her skin.

What does she have to do? Well, a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain, from the creepy, but still idiotic Victor Zsasz, stole a diamond that would have unlocked a family fortune. One that, if Roman obtained it, he would become the undisputed king of Gotham. So, Harley, alongside Zsasz and Roman little bird Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, are tasked with finding the girl and getting the diamond.

This is complicated for a multitude of reasons. Be it Black Canary having a conscious, a cop named Renee Montoya getting in the way, and an assassin named The Huntress causing Roman to become increasingly frazzled as she assassinates his top men. Leading to, ultimately, all converging on Cassandra, this teenager, who finds herself having to trust a cop, a serial killer, an assassin, and her downstairs neighbor if she wants to live.

Other Noteworthy Facts, Moments and Commentary

  • We do not see Jared Leto in this film.
  • The end credit moment is not worth sticking around for. It doesn’t provide an extra scene or hint to a sequel. It just makes you into a joke as Harley asks why are you still there?

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. With Joker gone, shouldn’t there be a real power vacuum where all the rest of Batman’s rogue gallery are vying for power?
  2. So, Harley can blow up a chemical plant and neither Batman, Robin, Nightwing, what have you, won’t show up or chase her down?

Highlights

Robbie Channeling Ryan Reynolds

While it is very much unfair to compare Robbie as Harley to Reynolds as Deadpool, it is a compliment. Plus, in many ways, from breaking the fourth wall, not being the most reliable narrator, and how the films jumps around, to not compare this to Reynolds’ Deadpool, both the character and franchise, is difficult. Yet, one thing you have to appreciate about Harley over Deadpool is that Harley has better timing, her jokes are far more diverse, and the things you like, potentially love about Harley, aren’t used to the point of growing tired of her shtick.

The Overall Film Is Hilarious

As noted with the extended title, while the film is very much about Harley Quinn, it isn’t solely about her. It is also about the Huntress who is seeking revenge and trying to get people to remember her name. That is, as opposed to calling her crossbow, or something similar. Also, Ewan McGregor, as Black Mask, is comical. And while he will get on your nerves after at a certain point, it’s always nice to have a comic book villain who is silly, whimsical even, alongside the usual adjectives of insane, callous, self-absorbed, and controlling.

But, when it comes to the film, what you may find the most comical are the action scenes. Specifically when it is Harley vs. Renee or random goons. For it is in those moments, the film finds ways to be both hilarious and earn its R rating. Mind you, with most of the gore not being as vulgar as “Deadpool,” but legs get broken, people’s faces get sliced off, and you can clearly see a balance between wanting a commercially violent film, but not one of the same ilk as “Joker.”

Being Reminded That Harley Quinn Isn’t Just Joker’s Simpleton Girlfriend

The jokes and violence aside, what you may appreciate the most from “Birds of Prey” is that it pushes Harley to be far more than Joker’s girlfriend. We’re reminded that she is a doctor, as she comically diagnosis people, and there are signs that, with her being free from the Joker, while she very much is and may always be a criminal, it won’t be in the same vein as Mr. J.

Harley’s love and ease with crime aren’t fueled by a need for chaos, money, or power. What she wants is freedom, maybe a few henchmen or mentees, and some sense of family, if not friends. For with realizing how little she had when she disconnected from Joker, the film doesn’t take things so far that you’re reminded Robbie is an Oscar-nominated actress, but it does push the idea that Harley Quinn is the type of character who could be the focus of a drama.

On The Fence

You Aren’t Really Given Much Reason To Care About The Birds of Prey Aspect

Here is the thing, while we get to know Black Canary, Montoya, and Huntress, whose real name is Helena Bertinelli, they exist in the shadow of Harley Quinn. So while Huntress’ revenge plot exists, and we learn of Montoya’s issues with trying to be promoted as a cop, then there is Harley Quinn cracking jokes, having the best fight scenes, and then them.

Making it so you are reminded how DC has a hero problem like Marvel has a villain problem. For while the film sets up the potential to see Montoya, Black Canary, and Huntress again, there is a serious need to ask, “Why?” Between the actors and writing, what did they bring when they weren’t playing off of Robbie/Harley Quinn? If you took Harley out of the film and focused on them, would this have been worth releasing theatrically?

The answer is no. If anything, they seem, like we saw in “Deadpool,” minor characters thrown in because the powers that be didn’t feel like throwing someone major into the mix. After all, Harley Quinn might be popular, but this is Batman’s story. So presenting Poison Ivy or any of the prominent characters that Harley has associated with, why present them when she isn’t DC/WB’s bread and butter – in theaters anyway?

Roman Sionis As A Villain

Here is the thing, Harley Quinn, in terms of female villains, not anti-heroes, but actual villains, is probably one of the best known in the comic book world. So to give her someone like Roman as an adversary, even if well played by McGregor, had its moments, but after a while, it makes you wish they presented someone better. I mean, taking note all the Batman villains we have yet to see in movies, and the fact Harley likely has pissed off most and got away with it solely due to Joker, Black Mask being the villain was kind of meh.

Now, I will say Victor Zsasz was surprisingly good and creepy, and perhaps is one of the best B villains in a movie I can recall. However, how things end for him and Roman is just eye-roll inducing.

Overall

Would Watch Again? – One and Done

Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

“Birds of Prey” presents itself in a “The best is yet to come” way. That, as DC taps into its other villains, who are far more interesting than their heroes, we will get films like “Joker,” “Birds of Prey,” and everything in between. Thus really showcasing what DC’s biggest asset: Their villains. Each one is the actual selling point of the franchises they come from and they are as worthy of films as their adversaries.

Which is what Harley Quinn shows in this film. For between establishing her as more than Joker’s girlfriend, as we’ve seen in the various animated movies/shows, and showing how she can just as much be the star as make forgettable characters have a moment to shine, here is hoping DC/WB gives its heroes a rest and let its villains get trilogies and share a universe.

What Would Your Rating Be?

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Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) Ending Spoilers

In the end, after fighting off Black Mask’s goons, Cassandra ends up being the one who defeats him thanks to a well-placed grenade and kick from Harley which sends him off the pier (Zsasz is killed by the Huntress earlier on). With this, despite originally being willing to sell out the kid to save her own skin, Harley and Cassandra become a mini-criminal family again. One that, as they rejoin what will become “The Birds of Prey,” decide to drop the eventual do-gooders and do their own thing.

But, being that Harley knows nothing about nothing, and apparently Helena doesn’t either, Harley simply pawns the key to the Bertinelli family’s riches for one or two stacks of cash. Which, considering Harley’s habits, who knows how long that may last.

Is A Sequel Possible?

We need to see Poison Ivy and Harley have their comic/animated series relationship. That should be the sequel with a notable villain, be it law enforcement, or otherwise, as the adversary.

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Amari Allah

I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

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