Suicide Squad sucked. Jared Leto’s Joker sucked. I don’t think this is up for dispute. I also wasn’t sold on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn within the context of Suicide Squad. So, when this was initially announced I wasn’t too jazzed about it. It was announced during that time when DC and Warner Brothers were in full panic mode and started announcing everything. So, initially my anticipation level was bleak. Then when the marketing material came out, my tune changed instantly. I slowly began to look more and more forward to this movie’s release. Hell, unpopular opinion, I love the long subtitle attached to the movie. It looked like a film that was catering to my sensibilities; batshit insanity wrapped in a neon coat. I was all in on this and going into 2020, this was my most anticipated movie of the year. Did it deliver? F--- yeah it did.
Cathy Yan is a name everybody should get accustomed to hearing about. This woman is going to be a force of nature in Hollywood. For her first tentpole blockbuster film, she knocked it out of the park. The handle she had on this movie made it feel like she had been making these kinds of movies for years. She came in and loaded up the movie with creativity and visual style. This is a director who fundamentally understands these characters and what makes them work. She understands that action is only as good as your creativity allows. Luckily, she is creative as hell. Yan also does a fine job of showcasing what she is all about as a filmmaker. I can’t rave about how well of a job she did enough. It only took her one movie to quickly shoot up the ranks of being one of my favorite filmmakers working today. I am excited to see what the future holds for her.
The plot is not all complicated, and it is better because of this. I don’t really want to invoke the MCU in this discussion, but we are now living in a post-Endgame world. I think the MCU is really gonna struggle in the upcoming years because nothing is gonna top the stakes of that film. I think the future of comic book cinema is in small stakes stories. I think DC is aware of this in some regard. With Joker and now this film, they aren’t big and bombastic tales. They are simple and intimate. My favorite superhero movies are the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. None of those movies are overly complicated in their stories. Raimi wisely knew to keep the plot simple, so he could create complex characters. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) attends the same school of thought. The plot is bad guy wants diamond, anti-heroes have diamond and don’t want bad guy to have it. That’s it. It’s thin. However, plot isn’t just story. It is character, and this movie is rich with character. Keeping the plot simple helps the audience's attention stick to what matters most in the context of this film; the characters.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Addressing the elephant in the room; Margot Robbie is infinitely better here as Harley Quinn than she was in Suicide Squad. With that film, it was not her fault at all. The writing and the direction of that film didn’t quite understand who she was as a character. It felt as if they were just having her do things that were surface level. It never really took the time to explore her and look deeper. It was far more interested in connecting her to Joker with that relationship and showing shots of her skimpy outfits to appease mouth breathers in the crowd. However, in this film she is finally free of Joker and the film takes the time to explore who Harley Quinn is. It gives Margot Robbie far more to chew on, and since she is a good actress, she totally nails it. Its fitting Harley Quinn got her start in the legendary Batman: The Animated Series. For, in essence, Harley Quinn is a classic Warner Brothers cartoon character. She is a Looney Tune and the movie is fully aware of this. It is a blast to see how manic the character is. Ewan McGregor lets his hair down and it is spectacular. He steals every scene he is in and he plays Black Mask so well that it really makes you want to see him get his ass kicked by this group. Wonderfully campy and evil in all the best of ways. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is also having a blast playing a badass wet blanket. Rosie Perez and Ella Jay Basco anchor the film. Jurnee Smollett-Bell has a breakthrough performance here. I think I see very big things in her future. She plays Black Canary like a person with a chip on her shoulder and someone with a lot of pain internally, but it is never over-the-top. It’s subtle. Not an easy performance to pull off, and she did grand.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Any movie that has an expert use of “I Hate Myself For Loving You” By Joan Jett and the Blackhearts gets an automatic thumbs up from me. All the music is wonderful and placed expertly. I think this movie might contain my favorite version of “It’s a Man’s World.” It is so moody that it elevated an already excellent scene. All the music does that.
This movie is goddamn bonkers, and I was there for it. From the first frame where we get an animated backstory for Harley, to the final shot, it never lets up. It is one massive acid trip of color, comedy, action, and zaniness. It is a hard R live action Looney Tunes movie, and I can’t really think of anything like it besides maybe Jim Carrey’s The Mask. A lot of movies these days look and feel the same. Nothing really pops out to separate from the pack. This movie stands out and really is a breath of fresh air in how it looks and operates. There was never a moment in watching it where I didn’t think, “Man, I am watching something special.” The end climatic fight takes place in a funhouse, and I truly can’t think of a better place for it. This movie is a funhouse. It radiates that energy.
I really really really loved this. It’s the kind of movie that feels like it was made with me in mind. It has the kind of action I love, the kind of characters I love, the kind of villain I love, and a style that I absolutely adore with every inch of my soul. The more I think about this movie, the more and more I think it is a perfect film for me. I loved Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam!, and Joker. However, this is easily my favorite movie in that universe. I can’t recommend this enough. Here is what you need to do: you need to click off this review, grab your pet Hyena, get an egg sandwich, head to your local theater, and walk up to the ticket taker saying, “One for Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).” Make sure you say the full title, and just enjoy the two hours of whacky fun and style this movie has to offer.