Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020) staggers at times but is definitely a move in the right direction for DC movies

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020), the now official title of the newest DC film to hit the theaters, is not bad. I don’t think that the film is particularly great, and it took a good bit of time before I was comfortable with the method in which the story was being delivered. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is telling us this story – which seems to imply a bit of zaniness added to all the elements. However, much of the dialogue and moments felt too silly at first…but once I accepted that this movie was embracing its comic book campiness, it got better. 

Harley has broken up with the Joker (or some variation of this has occurred), and she now finds herself unprotected from all the Gotham baddies she’s burned. Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) is at the top of the list of people who want Quinn. However, she finds a group of women who have their own beef with Sionis and his cronies. 

There is a pretty awesome action sequence in this movie that was a clear highlight for me. Actually – there are two that helped elevate this film into enjoyable territory, rather than just tolerable. Harley enters a police station looking for Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and absolute video game style mayhem ensues. As she moves from room to room, a new series of people for her to take down appear – and while it’s very simple in terms of plot, the action is creative, and really uses Harley’s skillset to full effect. Robbie is great in these scenes and proves she’s got what it takes to be this character. 

If it were only action and bad everything else, this film would be really lousy. For one, it takes a long time to really get to the action. It sets up a lot of character moments, though most of the connections with Harley and the rest of the “birds” feel very contrived – or at the very least, loosely developed. Still, there are some moments that really work and all the performances from the stars are great. I really enjoyed Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance, and Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya. The downside is they aren’t in the movie as much as Robbie, but the moments they get click and actually made me want to see a Birds of Prey movie in the future, without Harley attached.  

McGregor makes some interesting choices, and I realized that I was less familiar with Black Mask as a Batman character than I realized. I’m honestly not sure if he is anything like his comic book counterpart, but I tend to always enjoy McGregor in films. Nothing is different here – and while I’m not entirely sure what his characters deal is, I found him to be very engaging as the bad guy. 

The movie did feel a bit long, and some of the early scenes made me roll my eyes. I wasn’t feeling it at first, but it did win me over enough that I wasn’t upset that I’d sat through it. My 15-year-old daughter was a bigger fan of it, and I think we both clicked with the girl-power elements of the film. It’s certainly better than Suicide Squad, so there’s that. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020) earns the Decent Watch rating.

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