Atomic Blonde Review
Written by Kurt Johnstad based on The Coldest City by Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Roland Møller, James Faulker, Eddie Marsan, Bill Skarsgård, Sam Hargrave, Til Schweiger
Cinematography by Jonathan Sela
Atomic Blonde is the female equivalent to John Wick that I didn’t know I wanted until the trailers showed a blonde-haired Charlize Theron performing her own fight stunts. Atomic Blonde, while being a really terrible pun of a film title, looked to be a much more stylish version of the Keanu Reeves vehicle from 2014. However, aside from some great action sequences, Atomic Blonde suffers from trying to be smarter than it thinks it is.
The Berlin Wall
Set ten days before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lorraine – an undercover MI6 agent – is tasked with finding the leak within British Intelligence as well as hunting down a list of double agents working within the department. Visually, the film is gorgeous taking on a neon, high contrast look that accompanies synth-heavy Brit pop music of the time, of which its soundtrack heavily consists. Many of the color schemes from the neon-riddled clubs seen in John Wick and John Wick 2 carry over into this film acting as a sister film, of sorts. Think Ms. Pac Man to Pac Man.
Atomic Blonde is fine not adding much in terms of telling a cool spy story. Kurt Johnstad attempts to outsmart its audience with clever twists that only ever seem clever in the brief moment they’re revealed on screen. Once the curtains rise and the house lights come on, the confusion begins to set. Nothing ever makes complete sense and only happens because the story is forcing it to happen as such. Nothing ever feels natural.
I was left scratching my head, wondering why these characters were making such odd decisions. It’s not until the big exposition dump at the tail end of the film that confirmed my confusion as my not paying attention but a script that relied too heavily on keeping everything a secret.
What I can’t fault the film on is its stellar fight choreography. Charlize Theron, according to the trivia section on IMDb, had a total of eight trainers and trained with Keanu Reeves to prepare for her stunt work – and it shows. Theron is phenomenal and Leitch films each fight as wide as possible showing her full fighting prowess, adding a layer of authenticity to her role. Leitch directs one of the coolest (faux) oners I’ve seen in a long time. Each fight sequence plays out in its entirety showing the exhaustion that washes over two opponents, much like what Gareth Evans was able to accomplish with both Raid films.
An Atomic, Guilty Pleasure
Though the soundtrack is great, playing the music I enjoy listening to from George Michael to Queen and Nena’s 99 Luftballons, much of the musical cues became irritating because of how lazily and on-the-nose they were used. While not quite as bad as Suicide Squad, the results are almost there.
All in all, Atomic Blonde is a guilty pleasure that would be best watched with a bucket of popcorn, a turned-off brain, and the largest television possible.