By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Harley Quinn is a tough nut to crack. When she more or less helped form the Birds of Prey, the question of who is the protagonist and antagonist almost needs to be asked. To save viewers from the confusion, the longer movie title of (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) took too long so say in one breath. And it took far too long for me to finally decide to see this film. I was lucky to see it before it completely disappeared from theatres.
Margot Robbie loves playing the psychiatrist turned psycho killer. That much is certain. If she doesn’t run far enough away from her former shackles–The Talking Heads notwithstanding–she’ll never truly be free.
I remember the television show from decades ago and it generally worked. The movie counts on fans not remembering that iteration and redoes how Harley pretty much helped form the Birds. Unfortunately, this film sadly doesn’t come out as very memorable. It’s more of a setup for later escapades.
With Robbie as one of the executive producers and her star power, she can pull as many strings as she wants and get what she wants, much like Harley. The movie is more about her than the others–Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). By the time focus shifts on the heroines of the piece, the villain (nicely played by Ewan McGregor) of the film is firmly established. The Black Mask has scores to settle and has to make an example out of the individual birds that have flocked to him. Eventually they will leave the coup and have to figure out what to do with their lives. Bertinelli has it easier. She’s a vigilante killer. The others will have a rougher time to deal with once they leave their regular place of employment.
While they can’t go on chasing after Harley all the time, therein lies the problem of the film. What can they do next? The newly formed group has no other solid goal other than to make Gotham safe. The secret behind the love for the anti-hero comes from Quinn’s association with Poison Ivy in the animated series. They make a crazy team! Unless a sequel goes in that direction to meet her true partner in crime, the Birds of Prey is better off flying south to Florida to deal with easier situations.
2 Stars out of 5