Movie Review: Gleefully-Psychotic “Birds of Prey”

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.

“Birds of Prey” is the latest film in the DC Extended Universe. As another marked effort to rebrand their shared “cinematic universe,” director Cathy Yan has delivered a gleefully-psychotic hard-R spinoff that’s easily DC’s distaff “Deadpool.”

The film takes place after the events of 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) having broken up with the Joker. On top of making her a target for other criminals in Gotham City, this also puts her at odds with mob boss Roman “Black Mask” Sionis (Ewan McGregor having the time of his life); who’s after a rare diamond that’s been stolen by teenage con artist Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Forming a reluctant alliance with GCPD detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), the “Huntress” Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and the “Black Canary” Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollet-Bell), the film is a madcap three-ring circus that puts a delightful and twisted spin on its comic book source material. The script by Christina Hodson (“Bumblebee”) tells its story in a nonlinear fashion that’s equal parts superhero blockbuster and Tarantino-esque crime thriller. The film opens with a shamelessly violent and profane animated intro and doesn’t let up from there (giving a sly nod to Harley Quinn’s origins in the acclaimed “Batman: The Animated Series”).

On a relatively modest-for-DC budget of $85 million, this film focuses less on massive CGI supervillains and shiny beacons of light and more on keeping the action focused directly with the characters. Whether the fights take place at a roller derby, a market stall, or a parking garage; there’s a simple but effective feeling of “less is more” that’s in line with the smaller scale successes of 2019’s “Shazam” and “Joker.” The final battle at a broken-down carnival funhouse is one of the most refreshing finales in years for DC, with Blask Mask and his men meeting a gruesome fate that shall not be spoiled here.

If “Sucide Squad” was a darkly comic fever dream, then “Birds of Prey” is a high-flying; hard-R rush of candy-colored chaos, contained in a short-but-sweet 109 minutes. It’s a highly-recommended psycho Valentine that ranks among the best films in the “Worlds of DC” to date.

Verdict: 5/5 Stars

Review by Steven Pryor

At a Glance:

Birds of Prey (2020)

Starring: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Ali Wong, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, and Chris Messina

Directed by Cathy Yan (Based on characters created by DC Comics)

Rated R