Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) 'hits a sweet spot'

Mallet-wielding anti-heroine Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) faces a merciless crime lord in the comic book caper Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn). Damon Smith reviews

Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain and Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance
Damon Smith

IF BEING trapped inside a neon-lit carnival fun house for almost two hours with the music blaring at full volume sounds like a blast then – deep breath – Birds Of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) hits a sweet spot with its anti-heroine's oversized mallet.

Margot Robbie's gung-ho embodiment of unhinged Gotham City psychiatrist Harley, who lost her heart and mind to the Joker, was the chief undeniable pleasure of the overstuffed 2016 fantasy Suicide Squad.

Since then, Joaquin Phoenix has revisited Batman's grease paint-smeared nemesis.

He should be rewarded with the Oscar this weekend.

In stylistic contrast, director Cathy Yan's chapter of the DC Comics universe is a rumbustious frolic, turbo-charged by Robbie's unabashedly exuberant performance replete with a melodious Brooklyn accent that makes the lines in Christina Hodson's screenplay sing hilariously loud and clear.

Robbie dazzles in bone-crunching action sequences, performing most of her own stunts including a high-speed chase at night, which requires her to cling on to a tow rope behind a moving motorcycle while wearing bubblegum pink roller skates.

Female co-stars kick plentiful ass but Ewan McGregor's chief antagonist is criminally underwhelming in every sense.

Birds Of Prey opens with a cute animated sequence, which pithily summarises the end to Harley's romance with Joker and negates the need for Phoenix or Jared Leto to reprise the madman on screen.

Once news hits the streets of Gotham that Harley is no longer under the protection of "the harlequin of hate, the jester of genocide", she runs a gauntlet of grievously wronged low-lives and underworld figures.

The heavily sequined and bedazzled anti-heroine subsequently falls into the clutches of sadistic gangster Roman Sionis (McGregor) and his slippery sidekick Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), whose party trick is slicing off the skin of victims' faces while they are alive.

To spare herself a close encounter with Victor's blade, Harley promises to reclaim a precious diamond, which has been stolen from Roman by teenage pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

The kingpin grants Harley until midnight to retrieve the gem or suffer his henchman's homemade facelift.

Insults and bullets fly as Harley engineers her hare-brained plan, which positions her on collision courses with Gotham City police detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), crossbow-wielding vigilante The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and nightclub singer Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).

Narrated by Harley in skittish fashion, Birds Of Prey is wildly, giddily violent and profane but retains a cartoonish sensibility even when legs are being snapped in stomach-churning close-up.

The chronologically jumbled storyline is more of a headache than the retina-searing visuals and requires high-speed rewinds to rush through the backstories of supporting characters.

Robbie electrifies every brief lull, aiming for the irreverent tone and tomfoolery of Deadpool.

She and Yan's picture hit the target more often than not – with glitter bombs.

Rating: 7/10

BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) (15, 109 mins) Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Thriller/Comedy. Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina. Director: Cathy Yan

Released: February 7

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