A cringeworthy attempt at a girl-power superhero movie with a great lead and boring villain.

Birds of Prey picks up after the events of 2016’s terrible Suicide Squad and things don’t look pretty for one Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). She’s split up with the Clown Prince of Crime – Jared Leto’s Joker. Without the protection of her green haired ‘Puddin’, Quinn finds herself in the crosshairs of many dangerous adversaries she’s crossed over the years. In order to avoid being killed by one in particular – the dangerous crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewen McGregor), AKA Black Mask – she must recover a stolen diamond from a child pickpocket who is in police custody.

In order to complete her mission of retrieving the diamond and ultimately saving the child, she must team up with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and GCPD Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and beat up scores and scores of evil and incompetent men. *Eye Roll*. At least the soundtrack is cool.

Harley Quinn is an emotional mess after breaking up with the Joker. Drinking, partying and getting her own apartment aren’t helping her deal with the fact she’s now on her own. In order to accept the new chapter of her life and tell the world she’s moved on from Mr J, she blows up the chemical factory that holds special meaning to these two crazy criminals. This is a move she admits later one when she’s sober, that was not in the best interest of her life. Now that the world knows she’s not with the Joker, the enemies Quinn made during the course of her criminal life come out of the woodwork to kill her now that she’s no longer protected by the Clown Prince of Crime.

But killing Quinn isn’t so easy. She’s not just some floozy that’s been hanging off the arms of the Joker for show. She’s just as dangerous as her ex and manages to avoid being killed with a little help from her new found colleague, nightclub singer and driver Dinah Lance, AKA Black Canary. But eventually our former Arkham Asylum psychologist is captured by Black Canary’s boss, crime lord Roman Sionis, AKA Black Mask, who can’t wait to see that pretty face peeled off at the hands of his right hand man, Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). In order to save her skin (pun intended), Quinn manages to convince Sionis to spare her life if she can retrieve an important diamond that’s been stolen by Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a kid pickpocket.

But as always, this isn’t going to be a simple job. Sionis puts a bounty on the kid resulting in other mercenaries getting in the way of Quinn. GCPD Detective Renee Montoya is hot on the trail of Quinn and the diamond through the aid of Black Canary. And there’s another player in town who’s killing criminals with her crossbow – the Huntress. With all these moving pieces and hordes and hordes of angry, evil men out to get these women, it’ll take some teamwork between these ladies if they’re going to survive this messy story.

Margot Robbie is perfectly cast as the colorful and crazy Harley Quinn. As we saw in Suicide Squad she does an amazing job of bringing to life this iconic DC villain with her over-the-top, kooky and physically formidable performance. While the movie tries too hard to push the comedy and quirkiness of the character, there’s no denying that Robbie gives a strong, memorable portrayal of the Joker’s partner in crime. What’s also very impressive is that, apart from some of the acrobatic stunts, it’s actually Robbie kicking ass and doing all those impressive fight scenes.

Ewen McGregor on the other hand is atrocious as the film’s narcissistic main villain, Roman Sionis. It becomes apparent very quickly that not only is he miscast, but simply lacks the acting chops or charisma to pull off this eccentric and unstable villain. It’s a pity Sam Rockwell turned down a role that he would have crushed because it might have saved the embarrassment I felt for McGregor as he attempted to blend menace and flamboyance in a woeful and forgettable performance.

Birds of Prey director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs, According to My Mother) has the honor of directing the first DC Extended Universe film to be theatrically released with an R rating. This is one of the few great things about this female-led superhero action movie because without the impressive, graphic fight scenes and adult themes, this movie would almost be as woeful as 2016’s Suicide Squad.

Despite having the fantastic production values you’d expect from a Hollywood studio and some very impressive fight choreography, Birds of Prey simply tries too hard to make Harley Quinn a crazy criminal and tries even harder to show that girls can kick ass. We already knew that girls can kick ass (see Wonder Woman), and while there’s nothing overly special or supernatural about their fighting abilities these ladies manage to destroy hordes and hordes of muscle bound men in scenes that are just cringeworthy and laughable.

I know this is a comic book movie but not even Arnold Schwarzenegger set in an 80s action movie could take on this many muscled henchmen and get away with it. Well, maybe he could in Commando, but let’s not quibble over killing hordes of baddies.

Birds of Prey is garbage. It’s better than 2016’s terrible Suicide Squad but that’s not saying much. The production values are top-notch and it has a great soundtrack to bop along to while you watch some very cool action sequences led by one dedicated actress in the lead. Sadly, the story is a mess, and the main villain wasn’t worth putting on the big screen. Without a decent antagonist and a group of “heroes” who aren’t particularly heroic or interesting, Birds of Prey is a disappointing comic book movie experience. I recommend waiting for Wonder Woman 1984 when it comes out later this year.

  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Release Date: 02/07/2020
  • Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on February 10, 2020 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/birds-of-prey-2020/