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Film Review – Atomic Blonde (2017)

Before he tackles Deadpool 2, director David Leitch is here with another film, Atomic Blonde!  The film has Charlize Theron kicking tail as a spy in the Cold War era.  Considering Leitch worked on John Wick, there’s certainly going to be some great action in the film.  But is there enough substance to match up with the style?  The following review will be spoiler free.

Synopsis

Atomic Blonde is directed by the aforementioned Dave Leitch and stars Charlize Theron with James McAvoy, John Goodman, and Sofia Boutella.

Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is a top level spy for MI6 that is busy with business on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  For reasons unknown, an espionage ring has killed another agent.  Broughton is then sent on a mission to Berlin by her superiors to find out why this occurred.  Once there, she creates a less than concrete alliance with David Percival (McAvoy) as she begins to show the world her gifts as a combat specialist.

However, as she goes deeper into the case, she begins to learn of the web of lies around her.

Background

For those that were looking forward to this film, you have Mad Max: Fury Road to thank.  Charlize Theron has been attached to this film for quite some time, but development on the film proved to be pretty slow as no one felt a lot of confidence in her as an action star or David Leitch as a director.

The first domino to fall was the surprising success of John Wick back in 2014 which quickly made Chad Stahelski and David Leitch hot comodities in Hollywood.

The second one, well, I already spoiled that for you.  Fury Road was such a rousing success for Theron that it quickly turned her into one of Hollywood’s biggest female action stars.

From there, Atomic Blonde was born, ready to kick some tail.

What I Liked

As to be expected, David Leitch once again proves that he’s one of the best action directors there is in the industry.  One of the most tiresome cliches in action movies these days is the overabundance of quick cutting, close-up camera movements that masks subpar fight choreography.  Not only is it practical nonsensical to watch, it’s rather headache-inducing.  Luckily, Leitch wholly agrees with that sentiment as well.

Atomic Blonde allows you to sit back and watch all the bloody goodness in all its glory.  The film actually goes great lengths to not use cuts so that you can take a good look at all the stunts.  There is one action scene in particular that makes Atomic Blonde worth the price of admission all on its own.  The set piece goes on for what feels like ten minutes with camera movement that mimics zero cuts.  It’s gruesome, bloody, and fierce.  You’ll cackle all the way through it.

The best part of all the action?  You feel every second of it.  This isn’t a superhero movie where the characters can throw endless punches without breaking a sweat.  In Atomic Blonde, the characters feel every single punch.  They get up woosy, looking for whatever objects they can use against their enemies.  Some of these fights end up becoming barfights as the characters lose their muscle fluidity.

Every piece of action is something to behold.

What I Liked…Continued

By extension, Charlize Theron kills it (both figuratively and literally) as Lorraine Broughton.  While Leitch deserves all the praise in the world for setting up each of these fights, you need a capable (and willing) lead character to pull it off.  Just look at this:

As David Leitch said in the featurette, Charlize Theron is one of the best possible actresses for this role.  Not only is she extremely coachable, but she’s super fit.  Not enough praise is given to physical acting.  It’s just as hard, if not harder, than forcing yourself to cry on camera.  It takes a special woman to pull off these stunts.  Thankfully, Theron was game every step of the way.

If she keeps this pace up, we might be talking about Theron as one of the best action stars ever in the coming years.  Not enough appreciation can go her way!

What I Didn’t Like

What keeps Atomic Blonde from joining the ranks of other great, recent action movies is its overly convoluted plot.  As with any normal spy movie, there’s a ton of twists and turns to this film.  People cross each other, only to then double cross other people, then later triple cross others.  Things get so nonsensical towards the end that you end up wondering what the point of it all was.

This isn’t one of those movies with a complex structure that ultimately unravels to show some great revelation.  As you begin to connect the dots backwards, you soon realize that character motivations were thrown by the wayside so that the story could seem more sly.

While the film has a few more “tricks” up its sleeve after the main conflict is resolved, the problem that Atomic Blonde faces is that you ultimately see where the plot is headed, you just need the story to catch up.  Having the audience be ten steps ahead of the main character is never a good thing, especially in a film full of espionage and supposed deception.

Atomic Blonde takes a lot of story elements from the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City.  Something must have gotten lost in the shuffle because this story is basically nonsensical.  At least we have Charlize Theron around to do this:

atomic blonde

Gif via The SuperHeroHype Forums

Conclusion

Although Atomic Blonde‘s action will make you squeal with glee, there might be too many illogical twists and turns in the plot to give this film a full recommendation.  It gets a C+.  For those looking to see some great hand-to-hand combat, this may be the movie for you.  However, if you find yourself wanting a little more intrigue from a spy movie, then you’ll most likely come away annoyed and confused.

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Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on Atomic Blonde?  Comment down below!

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What movie topic should I discuss next?  Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society.

9 Responses

  1. Just caught you for the first time. Nice writing. Always start with what you like, even if it’s not terribly long. I agree with your review – I took a friend for a treat and we were both disappointed. So much potential and it was lost in the muck.

    • Nick Kush says:

      Thanks so much! I was incredibly hyped up after watching the trailers. The film seemed so fun and high-paced. Obviously, that wasn’t exactly the case.

  2. Can you review “The Need for Speed?”

  3. Anonymous says:

    When I saw the preview in theaters I thought it looked pretty cheesy :/ So much potential though!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whe

  5. It’s a shame David Leitch and Chad Stahelski can’t seem to quite nail the writing in their movies (the first John Wick debatably not withstanding) ’cause they both sure as hell know how to execute action.

    • Nick Kush says:

      That’s why I’m excited for Deadpool 2 because Leitch has a tremendous writing team behind him on that one!

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