Movie Review: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

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


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

9 replies on “Movie Review: Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”

  1. It’s interesting… My opinion is similar to the reviewer’s, but I’m trying to decide why the violence of Birds of Prey bothers me more than Deadpool, for example. I think some of this is because Harley is shown as a really bad person who does bad stuff, but we start with Wade as a guy doing something good — even if he’s doing it in a bad way, doing it for money, and dismissing folks saying he’s being a good person. Sure, Harley starts trying to be a better person, so there’s that, but it’s a painful journey to have to take with her.

    Does anyone think it’s partially due to gender bias? :-\

    Anyway, it’s definitely worth seeing, in my opinion.

  2. I love Björk. The trailer using a cover would be enough to raise my interest. Ewan McGregor is a favorite of mine, so this is probably enough for me to watch this movie… at home when it comes out on video.

      • She’s already a badass, but she does take cocaine in that scene and her attack on those three guys is partially fueled by it.

        Also, while she unintentionally ends up in the pile of evidence coke, she quite knowingly inhales.

  3. I think this movie’s opening weekend suffered on two fronts. One, its seen as the sequel to Suicide Squad and suicide squad was an awful movie. Follow on sequels to awful movies do poorly, its just a follow on effect. Second, the previews for this movie were awful and I really had no idea what the point was of this movie let alone the plot. So Harley dumps Joker, Ok. Wait, I’d have rather seen that story play out than see the story AFTER that.

    The marketing and build up for this movie was not good AND it was seen as the follow up sequel to a very much not good movie. Although it was a sequel about what was the only good part of Suicide Squad (Harely) it just wasn’t enough to carry another movie.

    • The Harley Quinn DC animated show seems to be telling the break up with Joker and is rather consistent and good. I wonder if it’s supposed to be actually in-universe?

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