Starring Charlize Theron, James MacAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan,
Bill Skarsgård, Toby Jones, James Faulkner
Screenplay by Kurt Johnstad
Directed by David Leitch
Reviewed by Patrick Gibbs
Out Of Four
The emphasis on "strong female characters" on film far too often simply means "hot girls who can kick ass." Charlize Theron has had a mixed track record with this: her turn as Imperetor Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road transcended the formula to become a true feminist heroine and a performance that deserved an Oscar nomination. On the other hand, Aeon Flux was the worst kind of "gunderwear" trash, making Tomb Raider look like a masterpiece in comparison, and frankly, Theron was terrible in it. Atomic Blonde is no Fury Road, and it's not a feminist flick. It's a rough and tough action thriller that isn't afraid to show it's heroine with her face bruised and bloodied, but at it's heart, it is still a gunderwear movie, and a pretty shameless one at that.
|(Image Courtesy Universal Pictures)|
Enter Lorraine Broughton (Theron), who is sent to Berlin by M16 to retrieve the list and assassinate satchel, a double agent who has been selling intelligence to the Soviets for years, and who gave up Gasciogne. Lorraine meets up with her primary contact, Percival (James MacAvoy) , a cynical but street smart little scrapper who nevertheless doesn't seem to be able to provide her with any substantial leads. She also meets a French agent, Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), who seems bent on seducing her. Lorraine obliges on the basis that 1. Delphine might prove useful, and 2. More than half the men in the audience shouted "oh, hell yeah!" when Delphine kissed her.
Director David Leitch makes his solo debut after serving as the uncredited co-director on John Wick, and it's no surprise that he can stage a great action sequence. The fierce brutality of the fights is such that they don't feel choreographed, and if anything they feel even more real at times than the ones in the Wick films, if not as fun. The most impressive sequence in the film is an all in one shot car chase, though it is clearly influenced by a similar bit in Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (and no, it wasn't literally done all in one take with no effects added, but people who think that matters don't get what really makes sequences like that special.). Leitch's effort to make the film feel stylish and oh so cool at all times is less successful, not so much because he doesn't do it, but simply because it gets tedious after a while. Most of the songs on the soundtrack are great, but not all of them fit with the seeming attempt to establish the era, and while the opening credits set to "Cat People ("Putting Out Fire With Gasoline") by David Bowie is nice, Inglorious Basterds kind of owns that song on film, especially when used in regards to hard edged female character (I may not be one of Tarantino's most vociferous cheerleaders, but I do believe in giving him full credit where it is due, and that was my "ok, I actually think I might love this" moment for that film.).
A little levity would have helped a lot here (it's missing the tongue in cheek sense of humor that makes the John Wick films so watchable.) Screenwriter Kurt Johnstad (300, Act of Valor, 300: Rise of an Empire) is not exactly known for his clever sense of wit and whimsy, and he could used a co-writer to punch up the dialogue.
Taken as what it is, Atomic Blonde is a serviceable ultra violent action spy thriller with a powerhouse (and very attractive) leas, and if that's all you're paying to see, you'll walk away quite satisfied. But if you wanted something special that broke the mold, I'm afraid that this only chips away at it in a few places but leaves it very much in tact.
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