Real talk: I was dreading the press screening for Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). I had only seen a few ads for it, but hearing Margot Robbie’s extreme Brooklyn accent as Quinn brought back bad memories of how she sounded in Suicide Squad and overall was like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. I was not looking forward to nearly two hours of that obnoxiousness.
But, dear, reader, I bring you good news. Quinn’s voice did not seem as intense or annoying in this spin-off, and I ended up really, really enjoying the film. I think I’m actually still in shock about how much I liked it.
The story centers around Quinn attempting to establish her independence after a “for real this time” breakup with the Joker. However, without the green one’s protection, all of Gotham City is out for revenge on Quinn for the many various ways she’s wronged its less-than-savory citizens in the past. Everywhere she turns, someone seems to wants Quinn dead or behind bars — from the sketchy nightclub owner and crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor), to the veteran police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).
Director Cathy Yan and screenwriter Christina Hodson packed a ton of action and humor into the film, but made a somewhat dubious decision to weave in a subplot about a missing diamond that’s connected to a (mostly) deceased mafia family. The jewel chase serves the purpose of bringing certain characters together, but it’s also a plot point that doesn’t really go anywhere in the end. I didn’t mind, though, because I had so much fun watching Quinn team up with other badass females — including supernatural songstress Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell), pickpocketing preteen Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) and crossbow-toting Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who I wish we could’ve seen more of) — while scheming how to wiggle out of yet another trap.
The entire cast is strong and has great chemistry, but Robbie and McGregor stood out for their complete commitment to their characters. There’s a scene in Roman’s penthouse where he’s detailing the history of items in his art collection that is so freaking funny I would see the movie again just for that. But I could’ve done without Roman’s ultra-creepy and sadistic henchman Zsasz (Chris Messina), who’s the stuff nightmares are made of and is responsible for some of the film’s most gruesome violence.
So the plot was a little weak, the tone was sometimes all over the place and despite its title, the movie’s focus was still very much Harley Quinn and not so much the Birds of Prey girl gang. But the film’s dazzling visuals, unexpected humor, creative action sequences, theme of female empowerment and overall coolness won me over big-time, and I find myself hoping for a sequel with these characters.