Review: ‘Birds of Prey’ overcomes rough first act, is a haunting ride

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 at 9:05 PM

Dr. Harleen Quinzel is expressing her newly found independence from “Mistah J” when we pick up her story in the DCEU’s newest entry, “Birds of Prey.” 

Here, Harley Quinn, played once again by Margot Robbie, is dealing with the cinematic break-up in typical Harley fashion: an unhealthy way. The post breakup scenes — although they set up the premise of the movie — seemed cringey. The world has been waiting for the “new Harley Quinn,” and the first chunk of the movie still revolves around the unhealthy relationship that is her and the Joker. But while the film may spend a little too much time on Harley in this mode, it quickly moves on to introducing the new characters and advancing the actual plot.

Robbie and the rest of the cast perform amazingly. It’s highlighted by Ewan McGregor as a haunting Black Mask and Chris Messina as the just-as-twisted henchmen-supporter Victor Zsasz. 

They’re so good, in fact, that Robbie and Harley are almost outshined in the process. It’s not that Robbie’s acting is subpar, it’s more that Harley — the main character and fourth-wall-breaking narrator — was not written as well as the rest. McGregor plays an amazing counter to Harley, while the women — strong in their own sense of morals and ethics — highlight her failing points. Harley makes some questionable decisions in the movie, and her actions help remind the viewers that even if she’s doing something good, she’s no hero. On the same note, the movie doesn’t let Harley get away with anything; if she failed to meet the standards of the other leading women, they did not hesitate to call her out. 

The fight scenes in the movie are brilliantly choreographed. They show off the skill of all the characters involved, and Harley shines in every fight scene she’s in. 

Also of note, when the women eventually team up, it’s not just because they’re women, but because they’re fighting a common enemy. The chemistry of Harley, Huntress, Black Canary, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Kane was great. They joked and jabbed at each other as they dealt with the issues in their lives. 

The plot has some twists and turns that, while not entirely unpredictable, were enjoyable. The movie also explores Gotham and gives way to some stunning scenes. An amusement park and Founders Pier are two points that stand out; the park looks like it’s out of a child’s imagination, before being slightly demented, and the pier provided a fitting location to build suspense. 

While avoiding spoilers, the movie shows the struggle these women face simply for being women. There are scenes that may trigger survivors of sexual assault, and quite a few scenes that made me cringe — especially with how well McGregor played his character. His portrayal of Black Mask swayed into a an uncomfortable place relating to harassment, sexism and the general belief that women are inferior.Black Mask and Zsasz have a terrifying relationship that seems on par with the Joker and Harley’s, with Zsasz often encouraging the Mask to take things even farther. 

Like the movie “Joker,” “Birds of Prey” does not back down from Harley’s issues. They make it clear that just because she left the Joker, it doesn’t mean she’s suddenly fixed. This was refreshing, as Harley is a well-loved character, but she does have a base persona that suffers from mental health issues. 

Check out “Birds of Prey.” It’s a great girl-power movie, all while bringing amazing comic book characters into the DC film universe.

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