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film review

Also opening: The Traitor, by veteran director Marco Bellocchio, is a real Italian mafia tale

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

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Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey.Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.

  • Directed by: Cathy Yan
  • Written by: Christina Hodson
  • Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco
  • Classification: 14+
  • Running time: 109 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

Female rage is a timely topic, and every female character here has good reason to be angry. Our lead, Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie), was abused by her father and the nuns in her Catholic school. She became a therapist, fell in love with a patient – psychopathic villain the Joker – and transformed into Harley Quinn, a prison-tattooed, parti-coloured punk princess, the kind of gal who adopts a pet hyena, pukes into a stranger’s purse and stops mid-chase-scene to steal a sequined fanny pack, but is also perpetually underestimated intellectually and whose rapid-fire psychoanalyses of friends and enemies is wholly accurate. (Joker, Harley and their gang rained mayhem on Gotham in the 2016 film Suicide Squad, but don’t make an effort to watch it; the backstory in this film is plenty.)

Birds of Prey begins just after Joker breaks up with Harley, and she’s feeling lost. “Do you know what a harlequin is?” she asks, in her squeaky 1940s-moll-from-Queens voice. “A harlequin’s role is to serve.” Okay, got it – she’s going to come into her own, she’s going to achieve the emancipation in the subtitle. (Opens Feb.7)

The Assistant

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The Assistant follows one day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a recent college graduate and aspiring film producer, who has recently landed her dream job as a junior assistant to a powerful entertainment mogul.Bleecker Street

  • Writer and director: Kitty Green
  • Cast: Julia Garner, Matthew Macfadyen, Makenzie Leigh
  • Classification: 14A
  • Running time: 87 minutes


2.5 out of 4 stars

From writer and director Kitty Green, The Assistant helps the audience understand just how abuse gets tucked away for so long, and how powerful men like Weinstein are protected by those around them at every level of an organization. Without explicitly naming, showing or ever really saying it’s Weinstein, the invisible villain in Green’s film is clearly inspired by the disgraced former executive. (Opens in Toronto and Montreal on Feb. 7, in Vancouver on Feb. 14, in Waterloo, Ont., and Hamilton on Feb. 28, and in Ottawa on March 6.)

The Traitor

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Maria Fernanda Cândido as Cristina, Pierfrancesco Favino as Tommaso Buscetta in The Traitor.Lia Pasqualino/Courtesy of Mongrel Media

  • Directed by: Marco Bellocchio
  • Written by: Marco Bellocchio, Ludovica Rampoldi, Valia Santella, Francesco Piccolo
  • Starring: Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernanda Candido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Luigi Lo Cascio, Fausto Russo Alesi, Nicola Calì
  • Classification: 14A
  • Running time:150 mins


2 out of 4 stars

Sitting across from the taciturn judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi), smoking a cigarette with handcuffed hands, former mafioso Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) begins his testimony with a declaration: There’s no such thing as the mafia. That’s an invention by the media. There is such a thing as the Cosa Nostra, however. And they were men of honour.

The mythology behind these ostensible men of honour is the basis of The Traitor, the latest film by veteran Italian director Marco Bellocchio (Vincere; Good Morning, Night), which screened at TIFF 2019 as part of the Masters category. Those looking for a mafia film in the style of Goodfellas or The Irishman will be disappointed. The Traitor is fashioned as an Italian epochal saga, which requires more than a passing familiarity with the real-life story that inspired it to truly understand Bellocchio’s vision. (Opens February 7 in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.)

Also: What’s new and noteworthy to stream

Your best Amazon Prime, Kanopy and Crave streaming bets this Feb. 8-9 weekend.

This weekly guide was compiled by Madeleine White, with reviews from Johanna Schneller, Sarah Hagi and Aparita Bhandari.

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