By Marc S. Sanders
Margot Robbie is a champion actress. Just look at Bombshell (I thought she was more memorable than Oscar winner Laura Dern.). Look at I, Tonya. (I thought she should have won the Oscar that year.) Harley Quinn? She’s perfect in the role as a ditzed out, mallet carrying party gal villain turned anti hero from the Batman universe. Only problem is that as good as she is in the role, I can’t stand Harley Quinn. This is a child who just won’t sit still.
Robbie takes on her second turn in the role following the abysmal Suicide Squad. This time she produces Birds Of Prey (and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). It’s an improvement from Squad but it still seems to be all over the place. It happily acknowledges that it time jumps and corrects itself. It is happy to drop F bombs because the producers wanted a R rated female driven equivalent to Deadpool. (It never had to be Deadpool.) It even goes in rewind mode (you know, with the cassette tape sound) because the viewer or the fans of Harley need to experience the lunacy of Harley. She talks looney so we need to feel looney while she voiceovers the story that’s going on here.
The Gotham gangster Black Mask (Ewan McGregor – the next candidate in line trying to replicate Jack Nicholson’s Joker, just like Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones and Arnold Schwarzenegger and on and on), wants to find a diamond that was swallowed by a kid named Cassandra Cain. Harley recruits herself to protect Cassandra, while waiting for her to shit it out. Hilarious material here. Side stuff tells us that Harley has split from the Joker.
The problem with Birds of Prey is that it does the work for the audience. I was constantly reminded that Harley is cuckoo, that I didn’t get the chance to discover it for myself. Robbie’s delivery is perfectly on point. The issue is the writing by screenwriter Christina Hodson is hackneyed. The character’s antics are too in your face. Look at Heath Ledger. The Nolans only revealed so much about the Joker. When their film ended, I wanted to learn more. Where did that guy actually stem from? He was a Joker like no other before him. The character wasn’t shoved in my face like Harley is. I had to think about him during and after the film.
The supporting cast is nothing of interest either. Rosie Perez, a great actress, plays third or fourth fiddle here as a Gotham cop who doesn’t get the credit she deserves from a department of mostly men. Mary Elizabeth Winstead just carries a crossbow that people mistake for a bow and arrow, and she gets frustrated with that. Yeah that’s ironic, I’m sure.
Still, despite the title, Harley is the main protagonist. Warner/DC got the right actor for the part. So why couldn’t they write her with more depth than this? The film starts out fun with a silly Looney Tunes animated update but then it gets all scattered with Harley breaking a thug’s legs and blowing up a chemical factory. She also shoves cheese whiz in her mouth. You go, girl!!!
Think about it. Harley used to be a renowned psychiatrist who is dropped in a vat of acid and abused terribly by Joker, only to break free of him and find her own way. This film really only TELLS us this. A better film would have SHOWN that to me. A better film would have made this the story from beginning to end. I’d love to have seen Harley before she went nuts.
You know what? I might’ve then become Harley Quinn’s biggest fan.