Birds of Prey Review – The DCEU Finally Soars!

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is the story of Dr. Harleen Quinzell (Margot Robbie), an infamous criminal known for her romantic relationship to the Joker. Now being free of that toxic relationship, she’s attempting to establish her independent identity. However, Harley’s lack of filter and constraint has embroiled the eccentric lady more than once, and with “Mr. J” out of the picture and no longer providing protection, several villains are coming to collect on old grudges.

At first, Quinn tries to dance her way out of each kerfuffle, often stepping on toes ever harder. This eventually leads her into the crosshairs of psychotic gangster Roman Sionis (Ewan MacGregor) who gives Harley a task—find Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) or face the ultimate consequences. Quinn accepts, but quickly learns that she’s not the only one with interest in Cain and must contest with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Detective Renée Montoya (Rosie Perez) of the Gotham City Police Department, and the mysterious Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) all with their own agendas.

What works in Birds of Prey is the delicious cocktail of humor, action, and female empowerment that director Cathy Yan has shaken up. Birds of Prey truly has it all for people seeking a more mature comedic, beat-em-up romp. While it shares DNA with similar films, Birds of Prey unquestionably has its own voice through nearly every evaluative lens: the fight and chase sequences have top-level choreography and ingenuity, the script is laugh-out-loud funny, and every character is delightful each with their huge personality and depth.

RELATED: Birds Of Prey Explodes Onto The Scene With 92% Rotten Tomatoes Rating

And it is truly the cast at the heart of Birds of Prey that makes it shine. Yes, Harley is the clear star, but the film only works due to the chemistry brewing around her. In particular, Perez is brilliant as a clichéd police detective oozing with gritty contempt, grown weary for not receiving due credit as a relentless officer. Then there’s Winstead who plays her assassin with an unexpected heavy dose of fantastic awkwardness. MacGregor, with the perfect blend of charisma and evil that make him easily the most compelling villain in recent DC film history. And finally (of course) Robbie, who succeeds in spades at crafting Harley Quinn into an anti-hero symbol of living one’s life loudly and proudly with a smile through an incredibly tactful narrative arc—Quinn is clearly a villain, but her actions are executed in a way that make her super easy to root for and relate to.

Audiences who are squeamish about language, organized chaos, and literal bone-crushing brawls may not enjoy Birds of Prey as much as others. Yan doesn’t hold anything back as the women pound wave after wave of goons into mush, by any means necessary. To say further that Birds of Prey tackles some adult themes would be an understatement, especially when it comes to power disparity between men and women as well as objectification. Yan addresses these cultural facets with an extremely deft hand, but some may not be seeking such elements intertwined into the proceedings (despite them being integral to the story). Simply put, this is not a kids’ film.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is the female action-comedy superhero film a large portion of the population have been clamoring for, and it delivers superbly on exactly the premise it is selling—unbridled entertainment

Recommended if you enjoyed: Deadpool, Kick-Ass, John Wick, Atomic Blonde

FINAL GRADE: A

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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