Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s hard to put into words exactly what a cinematic experience like Birds of Prey is (other than simply “it’s great”), so if this (SPOILER FREE) review seems all over the place, that means I’ve come close.

This isn’t an origin story or even an sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad, rather it plays more like an anthology of character studies that all happen to collide with a just-barely-reliable narrator as the running thread through the middle. This allows the film to not only take enjoyable artistic risks but, more impressively, have tremendous pacing that never at any points lulls, drags or becomes even the slightest bit stale.

We pick up with Harley Quinn, ex-main squeeze of Batman foe The Joker (neither of whom never really appear in the flesh and are only eluded to), as she transitions from newly emancipated to juggling everyone in the city wanting to kill her now that she no longer has The Joker’s immunity.

Harley becomes a Breaking Bad-esqe “Walter White”-style anti-hero, which the power of persuasion allowing the stakes around her to rise while charming the audience long enough into occasionally forgetting she’s done some terrible, terrible things. Along the way, four other comparable anti-heroes (ranging from a disgruntled troubled cop to a vengeance-seeking vigilante) all get pulled into the chaos that is a particularly bad day in her life and the real fun explodes.

Birds of Prey is nothing short of a blast. Utilizing a good selection of long-overlooked members of the DC Universe finally getting some screentime makes the whole thing as satisfying as a well cooked meal. The music selection is great, the art direction gives us such a great expansion of Gotham City, and the dynamic between the leads makes for a continuously compelling ensemble.

Highly recommended. Birds of Prey is in theaters now.

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