Atomic Blonde Movie Review

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We’re in the home stretch of what has been a fantastic summer movie season. With Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes, Dunkirk, and many more, 2017 has far surpassed the disappointing summer of 2016. And what would a summer season be without a hard-R action movie? The last time Charlize Theron starred in a hard-R action movie, she was the stand-out in what could be considered one of the best action movies of all time in Mad Max: Fury Road. Atomic Blonde is coming from one of the directors of the original John Wick, David Leitch. Leitch will also be taking on Deadpool 2, so I was curious to see what he did with Atomic Blonde. Let’s talk about the movie!

Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch and stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Sofia Boutella. Set during the Cold War, Agent Lorraine Broughton, played by Charlize Theron, is sent into the heart of Berlin to recover a certain watch holding the names of all double agents in service. Among the names on that list is someone known as Satchel, and Broughton must find out the true identity of Satchel to complete her mission.

Atomic Blonde promised to be a couple of things. First, it promised to be an action-packed thrill ride, and when there is action in the film, it definitely fulfills that promise. One action scene, in particular, gave me everything I wanted and more. It’s a scene that occurs on a staircase, as some of the best action sequences lately have, and it gave me exactly what I wanted from David Leitch’s direction. Leitch was a stuntman and a stunt choreographer prior to directing John Wick, and he resided in that area for two decades, so he obviously knows what works when it comes to shooting action sequences. On top of fantastic camerawork throughout the action scenes, Leitch builds action so well by involving the audience. I saw this movie in a packed theater, and when action scenes came, one in particular, the entire theater grunted and groaned after each hit. Leitch was able to put us right inside the scene through handheld camerawork and amazing choreography, and the sound design packed a literal punch. He also does a great job of letting certain shots leak into the next event. Most of the editing in these fight scenes perfectly captures exactly what’s happening, and it never feels abrupt or like it’s trying to hide anything. I also liked Charlize Theron in the film. On top of her action scenes, I bought into the affair between her character and Sofia Boutella’s character. Whether it was based on attraction, simply to acquire information, or a little bit of both, I bought into their chemistry. Sofia Boutella was also great her role. Since Kingsman, I still haven’t seen a bad performance from her. She’s excellent in action sequences, but she’s also able to reveal the layers of her character very well. I also found what the film did with James McAvoy’s character interesting, and I like how the story was able to move through his character. You always have contradictory thoughts in your head about his character, so he’s able to change the tone of the film drastically.

As great as Leitch is at shooting action, I think he struggles a bit to tell stories. When the film is taking us through the story without action, it’s very conventional, and it can be pretty flat. I was expecting Atomic Blonde to be John Wick with Charlize Theron in the lead role. Atomic Blonde can match John Wick in the action department, but where John Wick really excelled was in the world-building and character-depth. Atomic Blonde barely has any of that. Yes, the relationship between Theron’s character and Boutella’s character is interesting, and I’m always guessing about McAvoy’s character, but none of them had a ton of depth to go with them, and the story doesn’t exactly give us a clear look at this world where nothing new is happening. The film as a whole really lacks substance and clarity when no action is taking place.

Overall, David Leitch is truly one of the best in the game at shooting hand-to-hand combat. It should come as no surprise given that he has been a stunt performer and coordinator. Where this movie will entertain audiences as well as get them involved in the movie with the characters is in the action, and the staircase scene will go down as one of the greatest hand-to-hand combat scenes of all-time. Every time a character is hit, the sound design and direction make it feel like you, as an audience member, are taking a punch. Charlize Theron is a great action hero, and it’s always awesome to see a tough-as-nails female lead, but unfortunately there isn’t much to her besides that. There isn’t much to the story itself besides fantastic action sequences. I had enough fun with the action to say that I liked the film, but I definitely think that David Leitch prioritizes his visuals over his storytelling which is something that scares me a bit for Deadpool 2. His style works when someone is getting flipped, punched, stabbed, or shot, but it doesn’t work well when investing the audience mentally and emotionally into a story. I still think it’s worth checking out with a group of people because I liked the film, but I was hoping for more. I’m going to give Atomic Blonde a 6.5/10.

Will you be checking out Atomic Blonde? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

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Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]
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