by Philip Price
Director: Cathy Yan
Starring: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez & Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Runtime: 1 hour & 49 minutes
If one wants to talk about how much “Birds of Prey” doesn't care about precedent the movie could essentially be boiled down to a story about a girl, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, seeking out a diamond for a guy (a fantastically eccentric Ewan McGregor). No matter what you thought (or didn’t think) of 2016's “Suicide Squad” it would seem that at the very least the majority would agree that Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a highlight.
With that, Robbie both brings us and takes on the “Birds of Prey” story while continuing to carry on Quinn's arc in a manner that is respectful to a character that hasn't always had the most respect for themselves. While the film may take its title from the DC Comics team that made its debut in 1996 and originated from a partnership between Black Canary AKA Dinah Lance (played here by Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl (who is not in the film), this is mostly a spin-off of that aforementioned David Ayer film centering on Harley Quinn and the trials she faces as she moves past being Joker's girlfriend to becoming her own person while the project as a whole seemingly serves as Robbie's opportunity to champion the formation of the more traditional Birds of Prey line-up so that they might earn their own spin-off.
So yes, this is touted as ‘Birds of Prey AND the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,’ but while Black Canary, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) get their formidable introductions one would be mistaken were they to expect anything more than introductions to these new characters. That said, writer Christina Hodson (“Bumblebee”) and director Cathy Yan (“Dead Pigs”) take this combination of different DC elements and characters and create in “Birds of Prey” an energetic, vibrant, violent and all-around ambitious yet very playful production where the tone of the film and the world in which it exists is completely representative of the main character anchoring all of the story and action beats.
Yes, this is the same Gotham City in which Ben Affleck's Batman once roamed, but as seen through the eyes of a crazed former psychologist who wants to blaze her own trail Gotham City possesses a more manic zeal that Yan stylizes to the hilt even when the Guy Ritchie-like narrative becomes muddled in moments.
It is in this fresh and enthusiastic-feeling direction that “Birds of Prey” really comes together as Yan, despite not having the time to fully flesh out each of the individual members of this femme force, delivers a thoroughly entertaining and endearingly practical movie that doesn't upend expectations as much as it throws them out the window completely giving the audience something wholly unexpected to experience yet completely satisfying in ways they probably didn't know they were ready for.