It’s probably a sure bet that “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” won’t make anyone’s best movies list alongside “Citizen Kane.” But then, you’d have to be one serious lunatic to put those movies together in the first place.
But, “serious lunatic” is an apt expression to use in the context of Harley Quinn’s (Margot Robbie) latest appearance on the silver screen. Skillfully directed by Cathy Yan — who, according to imdb.com
, is the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie and is the second woman to direct a DC film after Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman,” 2017), — this movie seems all over the place as it opens, but it isn’t. The ghost in the machine is that it serves as Harley’s break with her even more lunatic ex, Joker. Minor spoiler: No, Jared Leto doesn’t make an appearance here. Well, there is a cartoon drawing of him that Harley uses for knife-throwing practice, but the main reason for “Suicide Squad’s” near-disaster is physically nowhere to be seen.
So, needless to say, the opening is all about Harley’s heartbreak. But, if you know the character, Harley isn’t about to go all weepy. In fact, she parties hearty until she overhears some so-called friends gossiping about how Harley is nothing without Mistah Jay. That’s when she goes back to the chemical processing plant that transformed her from Dr. Harleen Quinzel into Harley Quinn and levels it as a statement of her emancipation.
Yan, working from a screenplay by Christina Hodgson (“Bumblebee”), keeps the action frenetic and highly charged, especially when it comes to the action, language and more than a little ultra-violence (which was so strong a group of people at the screening I attended walked out). This is illustrated by our introduction to the truly evil crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his sidekick Victor Szasz (Chris Messina) who are after a big fat diamond on which is imprinted a code that may net them millions.
Into this cacophony of day-glo imagery are various introductions to other women who will become known as the Birds of Prey. They are the cop, Renee Montoya (Rosie Pérez), who does all the dirty work her male superiors always take credit for; Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a fantabulous singer in the club owned by Roman; Helena Bertinelli, aka The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), whose entire family was brutally murdered by Roman’s men; and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young pickpocket who inadvertently picks the wrong pocket.
In circumstances best seen on-screen, Harley nabs Cassandra as her only hope out of a huge mess and winds up connecting with the proto-Birds of Prey in order to protect Cassandra from every lowlife in Gotham City out to carve her up for a reward.
Despite Yan’s seriously interesting take on this corner of the DC Extended Universe she falls for the now-cliché way of depicting fight sequences involving multiple assailants. Really? Does a gang of bad guys really take on their target one at a time? Still, “Birds of Prey” rocks, but I’ve got to warn you. This is not a movie for all audiences, especially kids.
“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is rated R for strong violence and language throughout, and some sexual and drug material.
Tempo grade: B+
It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For tickets, showtimes and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com
Also showing in Taos:
MPA rating: R for language throughout, some disturbing/violent content, and sexual references.
Taos Community Auditorium
Stéphane (Damien Bonnard), has recently joined the Anti-Crime squad in Montfermeil, a sensitive district of the Paris projects. Paired up with Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga), whose methods are sometimes unorthodox, he rapidly discovers the tensions between the various neighborhood groups. When the trio finds themselves overrun during the course of an arrest, a drone begins filming every move they make.
“First-time feature filmmaker Ladj Ly makes a galvanizing debut with ‘Les Misérables,’ France’s entry to the Academy Awards that was nominated for an Oscar earlier this week,” Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday wrote on Jan. 14. “The title is both misleading and disarmingly on point: Set in the embattled Paris suburb of Montfermeil — where Ly grew up and still lives — this contemporary drama calls back to Victor Hugo’s classic novel but doesn’t retell it. The references are subtle but unmistakable in a story fueled by brutal inequality, bureaucratic apathy, obsession and incendiary rage. It’s as old as time, even when it involves cellphones, drones and other modern-day signifiers.”
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 9), and 7 p.m. Monday - Saturday (Feb. 10-15) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org