The latest DC super-movie opened, a sequel to Suicide Squad that also functions as an origin for Birds of Prey. It under-performed at the box office on its first weekend and played to mixed reviews.

This review may be more mixed than many.

Cast and Crew

Directed by Cathy Yan
Written by Cathy Hodson

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress
Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance / Black Canary
Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain
Ewan McGregor a Roman Sionis
Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz
Ali Wong as Ellen Yee
Bruno Oliver as Sal
Daniel Bernhardt as Sionis’ Chauffeur
David Bianchi as Sionis Henchman #1
Derek Wilson as Tim Evans
Joe Bucaro III as Carlos Rossi
François Chau as Mr. Keo
Miyuki Matsunaga as Mrs. Keo
Anna Mikami as Miss Keo
Keisha Tucker as Roller Derby Girl
Michael Masini as Officer Drago
Steven Williams as Captain Erickson
Charlene Amoia as Helena’s mother
Ella Mika as Young Helena
Paul Lasa as Helena’s father

Premise

A petty thief steals a valuable MacGuffin, and the plot by a sadistic criminal to retrieve it involves a newly-single Harley Quinn and the women who will form Birds of Prey.

High Points

1. The obligatory scene where the lead women finally get together to take on their common enemy has been handled well, and Harley’s pokey contribution earns the film’s biggest laugh. While the villain remains undeveloped, he functions as the sort of sadistic creep required to bring this lot together, despite their differences.

2. The running gag of Montoya sounding like she walked off a 1980s cop show works fairly well.

3. At least we don’t have to watch the Waynes die in Crime Alley again.

Low Point

1. The movie tries to contextualize its excessive violence with an animated flashback, loopy narration, and two scenes of characters watching old Loony Tunes cartoons. It didn’t work for me. I’ve sat through too many films filled with excessive violence, and this one equivocates between physics-defying craziness and just plain nastiness, without a consistent style.

2. Dear Hollywood: stop making trailers, especially for thriller/mystery films, that take you through a film’s entire plot. Thanks. Signed, someone who sat through too many while waiting for the movie to start.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 The DCU tries to do both its Ant-man and its Deadpool with a female twist and a script filled with stylized, hyperbolic violence but too little character and wit.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 4/6 I don’t entirely buy Margot Robbie version of Harley Quinn, but she’s a tour de force onscreen, and consistently interesting. Other performances vary. Much rides on Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and, while she has potential, she doesn’t quite rise to the challenge. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does well as the Huntress, but she’s underused.

Production: 5/6 This movie’s budget would make a year’s worth of indie films. The abandoned amusement park and the foggy piers were over the top, of course, but they capture the look of comic book. Gotham during the day, however, looks like location shooting in any big American city. In a film that relies so much on an R-rated comic book sensibility, that strikes me as a mistake.

Story: 4/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 My friend liked it. I liked bits of it. More importantly, however, you could hear the division in the audience. Some people laughed a number of times. Others expressed nary an emotion at anything happening onscreen. And I heard one “Really?” and two “Oh my god” cries of either shock or despair.

Overall: 4/6 Some people obviously like this movie a lot more than I did. The best I can say is that it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

I suspect I’ll enjoy the forthcoming Wonder Woman sequel quite a bit more.

In total, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey receives 29/42