Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey Movie Review
Updated: May 5, 2021
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, previously titled Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was directed by Cathy Yan and stars Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Ella Jay Basco (Cassandra Cain), Ewan McGregor (Roman Sionis), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Dinah Lance), and more. The film centers around Harley Quinn's antics after calling it quits with The Joker. On her first day of freedom, she gets wrapped up in Sionis' scheme to take over Gotham and the story takes off from there.
From the start, this film had a troubled production. It was pitched at the peak of DC's problems after Justice League and Suicide Squad had tanked. When the first trailer was released to scrutiny, it seemed like BOP was still a product of that period. However, it pleases me to say that I couldn't have been more wrong. This movie is a complete departure from every DCEU project that has come before. It is their first R-rated outing, and it definitely shows. There is no shortage of blood and gore and adult humor.
This is by no means a perfect movie. The first word that comes to mind is cheesy. Things just happen and the audience is expected to just accept it, and characters go as far as to joke that it was just "dumb luck." It makes for some great meta-humor and just goes to show how they really aren't taking themselves too seriously. These tropes echo throughout and start to get irritating towards the end, but it isn't too hard to look past considering how enjoyable everything is as a whole. The story maintains a brisk pace and doesn't waste any of its runtime on side plots. Robbie does an absolutely fantastic job as Harley. She has excellent comedic timing, and her performance feels like it was ripped straight out of a comic book. The supporting cast is good enough, especially Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, who takes her small amount of screen-time and creates an interesting, layered character.
The rest of the Birds of Prey are heavily underused, and Ewan McGregor is disappointing as the flamboyant villain "Black Mask," who, to be fair, was poorly written. He is shallow, and his personality doesn't go far beyond "hates women and wants to be rich."On that note, I'd like to bring up that this movie uses what I like to call "lazy feminism," which consists of bashing the fact that these are strong female characters over your head with cliche, stereotypical jokes. While the feminism used isn't exclusively lazy, there are more than a few instances when the pure badassery of these women is diminished by a cringe-worthy comment.
I would be remiss if I didn't bring up what I feel is the greatest strength of BOP, the great direction from Cathy Yan. Some shots felt surprisingly advanced for a comic book movie, and it added a sense of care to the scenes. The action sequences and stunt choreography are seriously some of the best I've ever seen. It's a rush of adrenaline watching Harley flip around and shoot people with glitter bombs, and having these scenes peppered throughout the entire film keep your eyes glued to the screen.