Reviews: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and The Assistant
Contrary to what you may have heard, the real star of Birds of Prey (let’s ignore the clunky subtitle) is Chad Stahelski. Sure, Margot Robbie is the lovable-dingbat face of this production—and very enjoyable she is—but it’s stunt-master Stahelski, director of the John Wick movies, who gives the picture a lot of its lift and kick. Props must also go to Cathy Yan, a former journalist directing only her second feature (and first attempted tentpole), for having excellent taste in Hong Kong-style action, and for bringing in Stahelski and his stunt company, 87eleven, to add extra punch to reshoots.
The movie is big, brawling, leg-breaking fun from end to end, filled with action that’s freshly thought-out and whompingly well-staged. It’s a little nasty at times—not in an edgy way, just an unpleasant one—and the script, by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), contents itself with a plot that’s simple pulp, leaving all the head-kicks and glitter guns to carry the picture. Which they pretty much do.
We begin with the news that Harley Quinn (Robbie), the psycho ex-psychiatrist of the Arkham Asylum, has broken up with her boyfriend and former patient, the Joker. This is excellent news for all who remember the lackluster Suicide Squad, and who hope never to see Jared Leto in that role again. Harley tries to cheer herself up by detonating the chemical plant where she and the demented clown met (“If you want boys to respect you, you have to blow somethin’ up,” she correctly notes), but still, she’s sad.
Very soon, though, she finds a new purpose in life. It involves a Gotham gang chieftain named Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor, having a ton of fun in black gloves and peach-colored suits), and a bratty little pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), who has stolen—and swallowed—a giant diamond that’s much-coveted by Mr. Mask. In short order, Harley begins accumulating a girl gan
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