As the title might suggest, Birds of Prey finds Harley trying to liberate herself from her attachment to the Joker. (Remember, she dated Jared Leto's "demented" bad guy, not Joaquin Phoenix's.) After an adorable animated version of her origin story, Harley explains in her near constant narration that she and the Joker broke up. (Well, he broke up with her, but she's choosing not to acknowledge that.) Despite insisting that she's doing great, she's actually not taking it all that well. But that's the least of her problems. Her association with the Clown Prince of Crime gave her an immunity in the streets of Gotham, and now all the people who are pissed at her want her dead even though all she wants to do is eat a perfect bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and get over her hangover.
The most formidable of her foes is Roman Sionis (a preening Ewan McGregor, having a great time), a.k.a. Black Mask, who is planning to amass an even larger fortune than the one he already has, thanks to a special diamond. He also has a penchant for ordering his henchman Victor Zsaz (a bleach-blonde Chris Messina) to slice people's faces off, at least when Roman and Victor aren't having sexually charged breakfasts.
A crew of women get sucked into Roman and Harley's orbit: there's Renee Montoya, Rosie Perez's brilliant but underappreciated detective; Black Canary, Jurnee Smollett-Bell's songstress with a secret power who becomes Roman's driver; Huntress, Mary Elizabeth Winstead's mysterious, crossbow-wielding warrior out for vengeance; and Cassandra Cain, Ella Jay Basco's spunky pickpocket orphan who accidentally steals (and eats) the stone Roman is after.
Christina Hodson's screenplay is nimble in many respects, but shoots itself in the foot at the outset with an overly complicated time-hopping structure meant to mimic Harley's own scattered storytelling, which just slows down the pace. Birds of Prey also isn't quite as much of a team-up movie as its marketing might imply. The gang only unites in the last act and it feels all too brief. But it's easy to overlook these flaws when you are settling into the movie's goofy, Lisa Frank on coke aesthetic.
While her accent sometimes wavers, Robbie wears Harley's demeanor like a second skin, her eyes almost popping out of her head, cartoon-style. Through Hodson's dialogue, the character keeps reminding the audience how "terrible" of a person she is, but in Robbie's hand, you sort of just want to be her BFF. Perez lives up to her legend status spouting Renee's intentionally stereotypical cop dialogue, and Smollett-Bell is the movie's conscience as Black Canary. Winstead drops in and out of the narrative, but when she finally gets to be more than a killing machine she's wonderfully dorky.