|All of the smoke in Atomic Blonde, is brought to you care of our friends at the Philip Morris Company.|
“I chose this life, and someday it’s going to get me killed. But not today.”
Charlize Theron may have been one of the first actresses to portray a real life female serial killer, but she is no where near the first chick to kick ass in Hollywood (major props for Mad Max: Fury Road though). Foreign films aside (since I’ve barely seen that many), there are a handful of memorable action oriented characters of the feminine persuasion that have stuck in my mind over the years. What’s telling, is that in comparison I could easily come up with dozens if not hundreds of male counterparts, yet that discussion is best served for another time (check out my Wonder Woman review). My order starts from lowest to highest with Sharon Stone’s The Lady in The Quick and the Dead (1995), Milla Jovovich’s Leeloo from The Fifth Element (1997), Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in Aliens (1986), and my personal favorite of Uma Thurman’s Beatrix “The Bride” Kiddo from both Kill Bill films (2003-04). Special mention to Zoe Bell as herself in the underrated little Tarantino gem, “Death Proof“. Unlike the cool yet fleeting opinions I have for films like Underworld and Resident Evil, these ladies still continue to impress me and make me cheer with every single viewing. What has Charlize ever given us except her title character from Aeon Flux to ultimately forget? I hope you’re smart enough to know that I’m joking, of course. Don’t get all “Furiosa” with me!
Add another one to her slowly growing list, because Charlize is going the John Wick route. Not in character or even story wise, but in the way that director David Leitch (co-director of Wick) has her fight training so meticulously for the screen, that you can’t help but be reminded of his previous work. Atomic Blonde has plenty of that no-holds-barred, close quarters combat to entertain the action purists out there, however there’s so much more than that. This movie drenches itself in cool. Cool music, cool style, and cool killing. 80’s new wave pop (with a little Public Enemy and David Bowie to fuel the fire) seamlessly escorts every scene and keeps you constantly aware of what era it’s in. Set in Berlin late 1989 (“Tear down this wall!”), the atmosphere of the cold war is ever present and keeps things gloomy as hell. In fact, the gloom is so tangent that it really makes you understand everybody’s downtrodden mood. Not only does the music take you out of the film’s depressing setting, it’s music video approach also makes up for whatever story lulls there may be. Laced in between Atomic Blonde‘s reliance on style over substance, is a murder mystery that leaves more questions at times than it answers and slows things down to a temporary crawl. Is that a genius way to keep the viewer confused and on the edge of their seat? You tell me. For me I was left scratching my head like after my first time seeing Mission: Impossible (1996). Thank goodness for Google Search (non-profit plug) to ease my simple mind.
Charlize Theron is so good at saying as little as possible and delivering the most impact. She gets more to say than her Keanu Reeves counterpart (they trained together during pre-production) though, and by acting talent you can tell which of the two deserves it more. Even bruised and beaten, she’s still the sexiest spy chick on the screen. She’s also so good at her delivery during the rough action scenes, that she makes you unquestionably accept all of the punishment that she’s subjected to. Her Berlin contact played by James McAvoy (Wanted), is another reason to keep your interest as well. His unpredictable approach and commanding presence, once again ups my respect for the man’s acting talent and makes me a bigger fan with every new role. The rest of the cast in Atomic Blonde is used sparingly to say the least, however they give a decent backup to Theron and the story. Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond), Eddie Marsan (Hancock), Toby Jones (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds), and the always enjoyable John Goodman (who played a similar role in 1996’s Mother Night), deserve mention amongst a cast used mostly as knuckle fodder.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, of Atomic Blonde
The Good- Car chases and fistfights and ice water baths oh my!, the expertly edited “long take” stairwell fight that ends in a river, from the hall to the bed, and one last twist.
The Bad- Without trying to spoil the film’s many twists, I found myself internally screaming at the screen like Keifer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer (24), “Who are you working for?!”.
The Ugly- Look I’m all for time period authenticity and stuff like that, but when the characters smoke more than they take actual breaths, it gets to be a bit of an annoying distraction.
Final Thoughts on Atomic Blonde
Rating- 7 out of 10
Atomic Blonde (2017)
An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Kurt Johnstad (screenplay), Antony Johnston (based on the Oni Press graphic novel series “The Coldest City” written by)
Stars: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman