It is my belief that every genre has the ability to become revered based on quality and execution. Whether it’s comedy or in the case of Atomic Blonde, action, the genre should not inhibit something from becoming the best of its artform. Action films like Tak3n, Transformers (5 or 6 or however many of these abominations there are), and The Mummy are recent examples of poor attempts at action movies. They each failed in their own ways from Tak3n with the horrendous editing and nauseating “cinematography” to Transformers and The Mummy with hollow characters and poor storytelling. These are films that can be made with a relatively modest budget (modest considering their returns potential) most often can make for massive returns at the box office and the movie studios are fully aware of this. It’s why fourteen more Transformers films are in the works. That’s not a typo, fourteen more headache inducing explosion orgies are coming our way if people keep seeing them.
But then filmmakers like Chad Stahelski and David Leitch emerged with the knowledge that action films can be amazing feats of stunt work, strong storytelling, intricate, fascinating characters and beautiful cinematography that will leave jaws on the floor. Action can be art if executed properly and Atomic Blonde is neon laden action that is as gorgeous as it is brutal and unforgiving.
“Jane Wick” this is not, but dammit I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a damn good time even if it has its weaknesses, which it does. Particularly in the story are where most of the pitfalls lie. Too much is happening all at one time making for a very convoluted story with too much focus on making twists and turns instead of making a stylish, visceral spy thriller with a straightforward story of trying to find the traitor in their midst. While this premise would have been basic and been seen many times before, it could have still been done convincingly with all the strengths that this films does in fact showcase. Another small complaint is the back and forth in time between the main character’s interrogation with her superiors and the story she is telling them about the seemingly botched mission she has just returned from. While at times humorous, these talking scenes tend to slow the pacing of the film to a nearly complete halt. When she is telling her story however and we are in 1989’s Berlin at the start of the fall of the Wall, it’s nothing but engrossing, violent, comedic progression that barely stops to take a breath.
Charlize Theron stars as one of the most badass female action characters I have ever seen and it’s about damn time. She is a talented actress, we already knew this and she has proven it time and time again. Where she really shines in Atomic Blonde is in the action and she sells every bit of it from start to finish. She is savage and unrelenting. Her character is bitter and crass and has no desire to please anyone. She has a mission and is hell bent on completing it. With devious people around her played by a truly talented cast, Theron has a lot to play with and by the end it’s clear her and her castmates gave this their all. Her costar and equally charming co-spy is the charismatic James McAvoy who at this point can really do no wrong. Even if the film he’s in isn’t up to par, he is undoubtedly the standout.
The action scenes in this film are absolutely astounding. They are clear, in frame with wide angles to see every brutal blow. You can see the actors’ faces as they swing fists and take kicks to the ribs; this is as in your face as possible without actual personal bodily harm. And the stairwell scene, an action junkies dream… I will go on record saying this particular scene, without spoilers, is one of the greatest actions scenes ever filmed. It is shot in one take with handheld cameras that capture some truly harrowing, nail biting moments of ruthless hand-to-hand combat that makes you want to turn away and watch even closer all at the same time.
This scene with the rest of the film in tow is a visceral, visual, action thriller extravaganza that while short of masterpiece, is nonetheless great action filmmaking that others should aspire to emulate. Despite its shortcomings, I would love to once again enter the world of Atomic Blonde and all its violent beauty. I can’t promise you female John Wick caliber but it’s close and definitely worth your time. A sexy, bad ass spy that fights with absolute ferocity, what’s not to love?
Rated R For: sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
Runtime: 115 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Bill Skarsgård
Directed By: David Leitch
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 4 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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