It could be that the age of movie stars is over, replaced by an age of franchises, but Margot Robbie is nevertheless hanging on with sharp nails.
Her new movie “Terminal,” opening Friday, isn’t terribly memorable. But she is, and nearly makes it worth seeing. If she were living in Greta Garbo’s time, die-hard fans would flock to it, and get what they came for.
She plays a character not too far from her now-legendary Harley Quinn (the only likable thing about the misfire “Suicide Squad”) — an alluring beauty with the face of an angel and the soul of a devil.
Annie is a sassy server in a dingy all-night cafe in the dingiest corner of a train station in a sprawling, anonymous city.
In the pulpy crime story, three key customers wander in. Two are hitmen: the older, harder Vince (Dexter Fletcher) and a young apprentice, “Alf” (Max Irons). They impatiently await an assignment from a mysterious source, “Mr. Franklyn.”
The other customer Bill (Simon Pegg) is a teacher with a terminal illness looking for ways to run out the clock.
She brings them coffee and slowly begins to slip inside their lives and businesses. She flirts with the younger hitman while proclaiming her disgust for the older one.
She tries to convince Bill that an amazing suicide would be better than moping around for the rest of his days.
Meanwhile, a station attendant wanders about. He’s played by Mike Myers doing what Mike Myers does, slathered in makeup, fake teeth, a wild accent and affecting a limp.
“Terminal” is written and directed by Vaughn Stein, a former assistant director on big productions (“World War Z,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.) making his feature debut.
His underground world is beautifully gaudy and steely, with cavernous corridors, angular shadows and nagging neon lights.
The characters, of course, are not who they seem to be, but the trouble is that being not what they seem to be is precisely how they seem.
There’s no surprise when the facade comes down and squirmy things are exposed; it’s yet another take on the old “Usual Suspects” denouncement, the evil plan illuminated by “ah-hah!” flashbacks.
There’s an anticlimactic climax.
Yet Robbie’s got something unique for a bombshell in a long history of movie bombshells. All diamonds and marshmallows, she’s savvy, smart, and kittenish, capable of a kiss or a wink that has the effect of a bullet.
She refuses to be overshadowed. When she’s not outright stealing scenes (in “About Time,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “I, Tonya,” etc.), she has enough ferocity to equal powerful costars like Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) or Will Smith (“Focus” and “Suicide Squad”).
Even a notorious mugger like Myers is no match for her here.
So, yes, if movie stars are still a thing in this world, Robbie is a bright one, and even though “Terminal” isn’t much, it offers a chance to watch her shine.
Two and a half stars
Starring Margot Robbie, Simon Pegg, Dexter Fletcher, Max Irons, Mike Myers
Written and directed by Vaughn Stein
Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes