BIRDS OF PREY is another movie that should have still been in cinemas but is now available to stream because of Covid-19. It's a loose spin off of the risibly bad SUICIDE SQUAD, featuring the break-out star of that film - Margot Robbie (ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD) as Harley Quinn. The demented former psychiatrist turned girlfriend of Joker starts the film dumped and "emancipated"- except without "Mr J"s protection every gangster she ever offended is after her. So, she drums up a commission from local wannabe gangster-king, Roman Sionis (Ewan Macgregor) to find a little girl (Ella Jay Basco) who has stolen a super-valuable diamond. Problem is - when Harley finds the kid, Cassandra Cain, she realises that she kind of likes being a big sister. Harley also realises that Sionis is a total creep and she really doesn't want to hand Cain over to him and his knife-wielding sidekick Mr Zazz (Chris Messina). So, Harley bands together in common cause with a bunch of women who have been after her for most of the film - the cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) - the wronged mafiosi child turned vengeful masker heroine The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) - and the genuine superhero Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).
I have to say that I enjoyed this film far more than I was expecting given my awful experience with SUICIDE SQUAD. I had also suspected that Robbie's high-pitched infantilised Harley Quinn might grate over an uninterrupted two hour run-time. But amazingly, Robbie showed some depth in the role, and I really loved her athleticism in some superbly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, as well as her genuinely nurturing role with Cain. I also loved seeing so many thirty-something actresses get parts where they are truly kick-ass and agents of their own fate - with a particularly scene-stealing turn from Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the bizarrely preppy Sicilian vengeance-machine. I also loved Cathy Wan's kinetic direction and the ballsy use of a non-linear timeline and breaking the fourth wall.
The only let-down was casting Ewan Macgregor as Soinis. He really isn't that menacing, and this is a particular problem with a troubling scene where he humiliates a woman in his club. I kept wondering where the actors were nowadays who could pull of that kind of funny creepy turn that Christopher Walken did so well in KING OF NEW YORK. Harley Quinn deserved a better antagonist.
BIRDS OF PREY has a running time of 109 minutes and is rated R. It's available to rent and own.
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