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SYFY WIRE reviews

Critics say Birds of Prey is a stylized, Deadpool-esque romp that mostly hits its mark

By Josh Weiss
Margot Robbie Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) doesn't hit theaters until this Friday (Feb. 7), but critics are now allowed to post their reviews of the latest DCEU feature online. Early reactions from the world premiere in London compared the Cathy Yan-directed film to the fourth-wall-breaking mayhem of Deadpool, but the first full reviews are rolling a bit of that high praise back. Though most agree it's still a heck of a lot of fun.

The general consensus is that BoP is a fun, madcap, and insane ride that doesn't have a ton below its highly stylized surface — but thankfully that surface is pretty good anyway. Based on what you'll read in our review roundup below, a deluge of bright colors and pop-inspired needle drops can't seem to fully cover up what's described as a somewhat "bare-bones" screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee). Some critics were also let down that the project doesn't delve deeply enough into its pro-feminist message. But many others praised the film as a bare-knuckle thrill ride with some wild visuals, clever gags, and plenty of action to keep the DC film rollicking along.

With that said, the ensemble cast — which is led by Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn — is receiving a lot of praise, particularly for standout character moments throughout the non-linear story. Aside from Robbie herself (reprising her role from 2016's Suicide Squad), it sounds like Ewan McGregor (playing big bad Gotham crime boss Black Mask) gives one of the best performances in the movie.

To put all that into perspective, the film is currently sitting at an excellent 92 percent "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though that could always shift a bit as more reviews are added to the tally. Based on updated projections from Variety, the release could bring in as much as $55 million during its opening weekend. That's $3 million more than the early estimates we got in January.

The plot begins with Harley breaks up with her longtime boyfriend, the Joker. In a move that turns her more into more of an antihero than a flat-out villain, Quinn decides to protect a young girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), from Black Mask. To that end, she recruits a team of like-minded women, who all have a bone to pick with the murderous gangster.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Black Canary), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Huntress), and Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya) co-star as Harley's fellow Birds of Prey.

Here's what some critics had to say:

"The script ... has attitude to spare, but in a rather bare-bones way. It’s going for the sparky nihilist defiance of Deadpool, with a running fourth-wall-breaking commentary by Harley ... But if the film’s (black) heart is in the right acid place, Birds of Prey could have used more of the intricate cleverness of Deadpool." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"Leaning more heavily into action than laughs, the pic largely delivers on that front. But those hoping for a Deadpool-like fusion of mayhem and wit should lower their expectations: Harley may be known for her unpredictability, but Birds plays by action-movie rules." -John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

"It’s still mostly up to Robbie, though, to carry the story, and she does it with a giddy mix of mad-dog ruthlessness and girlish glee; a kiss blown with a brass-knuckled fist ... Does the movie’s pop-feminist message need to be as consistently, cartoonishly violent as it is? Almost definitely not. But in a world gone mad, the catharsis of Prey’s twisted sisterhood doesn’t just read as pandemonium for its own sake; it’s actually pretty damn sweet." -Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

"Yan and Hodson seem to believe that Harley and her newfound sisters are striking a blow for downtrodden women everywhere (just as long as those downtrodden women look like supermodels), and so nothing else matters. Birds of Prey doesn’t have any spectacular imagery, clever twists, or decent punchlines, but because it has lots of swearing, bloody violence, snazzy disco outfits, and girl-power slogans, the viewer is supposed to cheer and high-five, all the same." -Nicholas Barber, BBC

"While its emphasis on Harley Quinn doesn’t leave much room for the Birds of Prey (though each scores a standout moment), the movie is a stunning showcase for Margot Robbie, who commands the screen and gives her damaged protagonist all the dimension she deserves." -Laura Prudom, IGN

"This is a film in which you’ll mostly want to spend time with the leading ladies ... With a pace that rattles along like a roller derby, a successful gag rate, and general tone of irreverence throughout – a filthily delicious-looking sandwich is integral to Harley’s plot arc – it’s relentless, hyperactive, and viciously entertaining. Just like Harley herself." -Matt Maytum, Games Radar

"Birds of Prey certainly errs on the side of style over substance — if you dig too far into its flashy surface, you may not find much underneath. It’s not saying anything deep or groundbreaking about the female experience or the nature of revenge." Hoai-Tran Bui, /FILM

"The film starts off slowly and finds its stride in the second act, with McGregor’s villain being the entertaining standout while underutilizing some of its other more interesting characters. Birds of Prey is a good movie bogged down by a sluggish start. It is entertaining and a great starting point for some new characters on the big screen." -Brandon Davis,

"Birds of Prey is a bright and insane world. While it took a bit for this viewer to appreciate the grandiose display of exaggerated violence intermixed with a bit of reality, it became harder and harder to resist as its less than two hour run time went on. Once you get used to the hyper stylized storytelling and direction, you’ll find much to enjoy here." -JimmyO, Joblo