2.5 out of 5 stars (Decent)
Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is an R-rated cartoon disguised as a superhero movie. Colorful visuals, acidic humor, and energetic action pervade every frame, confidently carried by a rockin soundtrack and dedicated performances from Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor. Sadly, an underdeveloped supporting cast and mystifyingly tepid approach to its potentially empowering story prevent it from flying higher.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has been kicked to the curb by her longtime abuser The Joker. Initially ecstatic, Harley soon realizes Joker was protecting her from Gotham City’s scumbags, and they’re out for blood. Worse still, crime boss Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) captures Harley and threatens death unless she brings him Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a pickpocket who stole a diamond from him. Elsewhere, Officer Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) also seek Black Mask, eventually aligning against their common foe.
Birds of Prey is the definition of style over substance. It’s energetic, darkly funny, and boasts enjoyable action and cartoonish performances from Robbie and McGregor, but it could have been so much more. The much-publicized LGBTQ relationship is underplayed and the titular “Birds” have limited interactions, development, and screentime outside Harley-narrated flashbacks. The films’ failure to explore the tragic irony of Harley being “freed” from one abusive relationship only to fall into another (and the resulting empowerment her escape from the second would provide) left me emotionally underwhelmed. It’s like a McDonald’s meal: Filling but forgettable.
Birds of Prey has colorful action, a unique aesthetic, and fun performances, but underdeveloped characters and a tepid delivery of its empowerment themes prevent it from flying higher. Rent it.
Rated R for Strong Violence And Language Throughout, And Some Sexual and Drug Material