The newest offering of the DC Comics extended movie universe is kinda like when you were a kid and one of the other kids poured ketchup and candy and soda and salt and crunched up chips on their plate of leftover school cafeteria french bread pizza, mixed it all up and dared you to try it — there’s just way too much on this plate.
The lengthily-titled “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a sequel to 2016’s “The Suicide Squad” centered solely around the character of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and does little to improve upon the quality of that already not-terribly-good film. Much of the pre-release hype around this sequel centered on the female-oriented plot and the fact that it was made by a woman filmmaker, Cathy Yan.
These aspects of the production are to be commended — we need more female perspectives in cinema.
But unfortunately “Birds” is just way too loud, way too incoherent and not a good enough movie to warrant the sort of political relevance bestowed upon it by social media.
The film follows Quinn after a breakup with her longtime boy- friend and partner-in-terrorizing-Gotham-City, the Joker. In this instance, it’s not the Joaquin Phoenix one, but the Jared Leto one that looked like a Hot Topic ad circa 2004 threw up. Quinn teams up with a team of other women to stop the Gotham crime boss Black Mask (Ewan MacGregor) from stealing a diamond, or something.
To be honest, the plot seemed to be an excuse for just a bunch of loud noises, and “badass” shaky cam action sequences with an abundance of music video slow- motion effects.
To be fair, Robbie is great here, just as she was in “Suicide Squad,” and MacGregor seems to very obviously be having the time of his life chewing every inch of the scenery whenever he’s on-screen.
But those two things are the beginning and end of any praise I have for this film. I have a litany of other problems.
For starters, I have no idea why Black Mask was doing any- thing he was doing. To call this villain one-dimensional would be an insult to the first dimension. In fact there is a parade of poorly defined characters. There are plot holes you could drive a truck through and numerous structural problems — one flash- back sequence is so long I got a serious case of whiplash once the narrative rounded back to its present time.
When the movie downshifts out of its numerous action sequences, it becomes so boring I found myself committing the unforgivable sin of looking at my iPhone in the theater.
But the most egregious of all crimes against cinema this movie commits is its utter wasting of the talents of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who is only around for something like 15 minutes of actual screen-time with the most eye-rollingly cliched revenge backstory imaginable.
But what bothered me most in this brutally relentless cacophony was the too loud background music, frenetic, headache-inducing editing and barely-plotted nonsense. It seemed like a bunch of things were happening, and I had no idea why.
Once Quinn strapped on roller skates for the big climactic chase in the third act, I couldn’t help but be terrified someone I knew would see me leaving the theater.
Much was made on social media prior to this film’s release about how it would counteract the nihilism and “white male rage” of Todd Phillips’ “Joker.”
After seeing both films, I seriously question the sincerity of anyone who tries to say this end- less, ear-splitting, eye-straining slog is a better movie than “Joker” (as derivative of Martin Scorsese as it was) in any conceivable fashion. It’s not.
Whatever one thinks of that movie’s politics (or lack thereof), at least it was made with a serious degree of visual flair, craft and didn’t throw 8,000 edits in your face every second.
There is a reason why January through March are considered to be “dump months” for new releases. It’s the time when Hollywood dumps the movies it knows are stinkers into theaters — movies that, for whatever reason, are just too messy for the months when people actually go to the movies.
This movie fits neatly into that space, which is about the only thing neat about it.