DIRECTOR: CATHY YAN | WRITER: CHRISTINA HODSON | STARRING: MARGOT ROBBIE, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD, JURNEE SMOLLETT-BELL, ROSIE PEREZ, CHRIS MESSINA, ELLA JAY BASCO, ALI WONG, EWAN MCGREGOR | RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 7TH
It's difficult to engage in Birds of Prey-related discourse because there isn't too much we can say that the film doesn't address. Paper-thin characters and weak conclusion aside, it's a no-holds-barred joyride made even more enjoyable by a ridiculously talented cast and a metric shit-ton of twisted humour. For better or worse, it's exactly what it means to be.
Birds of Prey depicts a newly single Harley who's ready to love and be loved, an approach that, upon inspection, actually takes her closer to her roots. She's the most dynamic character here and the only aspect steering the picture away from mediocrity. Her psychological spinout originates from love so powerful it borders on magnetism. It stands to reason, then, that she would find a different kind of attachment and settle into her role as big sister to one hell of a pickpocket. This take on Harley, coupled with a stunning, tonally-appropriate Black Mask, puts Birds of Prey a cut above other DC offerings.
Exercising prudence, director Cathy Yan and writer Christina Hodson have crafted a film both for the present and for posterity, ensuring that Harley and company can thrill audiences without fretting about generational differences. The film doesn't work our brains or emotions past our culturally-cultivated infatuation for its eponymous heroines, but it's so infectiously earnest, so unabashedly wild that its hollowness is easier to ignore. But, like a patterned mallet crashing into a skull, Birds of Prey disorients. It all feels as unhinged and erratic as Harley herself, with more backtracking and sidestepping than fans may prefer. This may work for some more than it will for others because it reflects her eccentricities.
The movie succeeds in transforming Margot Robbie into the best, most realised iteration of Harley we'll probably ever get. In fact, the filmmakers seem to enjoy her so much that it's all they can do not to make it a full-blown Harley Quinn movie. We understand the impulse.
Birds of Prey may not hit every beat, but it uses its characters and concepts well enough. Does it reach the creative heights DC executives had hoped it would? No. Does it give it an honest go? Absolutely. Because, at the end of the day, Birds of Prey pulls off its premise with aplomb and has an absolute blast doing it.