BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Cert 15 Stars 4

Girl power is given a badass makeover in this freewheeling foul-mouthed superhero action comedy, whose double identity is as a raucous relationship breakup party for the social media generation.

Led by Margot Robbie’s gloriously anarchic Harley Quinn, it sees a flock of assorted women, such as Ella Jay Basco’s young pickpocket, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s vigilante, Rosie Perez’s cop and Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s super-powered nightclub singer, in pursuit of a missing mafia diamond.

Harley Quinn was first introduced in 2016’s mostly rubbish but wildly successful super-villain adventure, Suicide Squad, but as its standout character, fully deserves this stand-alone spin-off romp.

The now ex-girlfriend of Batman’s arch enemy, the Joker, a heartbroken Harley is struggling to embrace independence and recognise her own self-worth.

The film takes place in an alternative timeline to Joaquin’s Phoenix’s BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated version of Joker, and the clown prince of crime is only very briefly glimpsed.

Without the Joker’s protection Harley is now a target for Gotham City’s underworld, not least Ewan McGregor’s enjoyably camp master criminal, Black Mask, who also wants the diamond.

Robbie is a blast as she pours heart, soul and in-your-face attitude into her character, creating a brilliantly spontaneous and irrepressible modern update on Marilyn Monroe’s sweet and sexy screen persona, complete with a nightmarish spin on her famous song and dance number, ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend.

Harley talks directly to the camera as the story flashbacks and zips forward, with director Cathy Yan throwing out the leering camerawork of Suicide Squad in favour of a hyperactive grab-bag of graphics and fun-filled acrobatic action, including a breathless and brilliant rollerskating finale.

Yan and Robbie dress the thin plot as a ‘this is my life’ Youtube-style confessional video, albeit one with Hollywood production values, and once you’ve adjusted to the manic tone and the story kicks in, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Imagine an alternative Spice Girls movie, but one bursting with the character and charisma of talented performers at the top of their game and a far superior soundtrack.

Funny, irreverent, violent, trashy and a celebration of sisterhood with an unmissable message of female empowerment, it’s an irresistible rainbow riot of popcorn fun.