“Birds of Prey” is the very definition of style over substance where there are plenty of great action sequences and interesting performances within a basic plot told in a non linear structure. The film begins with newly single Harley Quinn dealing and the various people trying to kill her because the Joker is not protecting her. The Cathy Yan directed action flick follows Harley finding teenage pickpocket Cassandra Cain, who stole a diamond from villain crime boss Roman Sion also known as Black Mask. Meanwhile, Police Officer Renee is pursuing the case, and the mysterious Huntress is avenging her family’s death across Gotham.
The film is an entertaining yet slightly convoluted action flick that has enough funny moments and gritty action sequences to make up for the basic plot and inconsistent hit-or-miss soundtrack. “Birds of Prey” does have a fairly interesting opening that introduces a better depiction of Harley than in “Suicide Squad” before going into a fairly bland plot regarding a stolen diamond and a lot of intertwining stories.
The only reason why this film works to a certain extent is because of its performances and pacing that never feels rushed, even with the constant nonlinear storytelling that involves Harley narration. Margot Robbie once again gives a great performance as Harley while Ewan McGregor is giving a great over-the-top performance as psychotic Gotham crime boss Black Mask. In addition, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett Belle and Ella Jay Busco are very good as the hard-laced cop Renee, lounge singer turned vigilante Black Canary and Cassandra, respectively. The only out-of-place performance comes from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who feels miscast as Huntress.
Additionally, “Birds of Prey” does utilize a fairly unique visual and editing style that encompasses its characters in well-designed sets and locations that are consistently well lit with just enough colors to differentiate its scenes. Everyone in the film has very good costumes that work well in the films slightly violent yet tongue-in-cheek action sequences. Even the film’s overreliance on narration from Harley can be forgiven because it is in the purpose of telling the nonlinear story in an entertaining fashion. While not all of the humor in the film works, “Birds of Prey” works with a subtle feminist subtext and truly menacing villains in Black Mask and Victor, played by Chris Messina.
The problem with the film is that it is a bit choppy with its narrative structure because it is trying to provide backstory for a few new characters without giving enough time to develop a team dynamic between the leads. The film is at first a Harley film and eventually settles into becoming a “Birds of Prey” film by its ending fight sequence that remains one of the better fight sequences in the new DC universe.
Once the film settles on a tone of being comedic to some effect, it will suddenly turn into a revenge film out of nowhere with a backstory for Huntress. Furthermore, the best dynamics in the film are between Harley and Cassandra and Black Mask and his team of criminals, which the film utilizes to its advantage most of the time. On the other hand, “Birds of Prey” suffers from an inconsistent soundtrack and tone that either really enhances the action sequences in its nonlinear narrative or doesn’t provide enough information to go from scene to scene.
One scene will show Harley being nearly picked up by the cops and then we are shown her fighting in a police station trying to pick up Cassandra. The film’s narrative structure works at points and yet it can also stop the story in its tracks. “Birds of Prey” features a lot of great action sequences with all of the main characters, all culminating to a very stylish and fun sequence within a funhouse at the film’s ending.
The film does feature a rather entertaining yet abrupt epilogue that almost feels more interesting than the rest of the film. Overall, “Birds of Prey” is an entertaining yet tonally inconsistent action comedy that features a lot of good performances and great action sequences within an otherwise derivative plot. For me, “Birds of Prey” gets a six and a half out of 10.