Atomic Blonde (R)

Directed by stuntman-turned-director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) and starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, Atomic Blond hits theaters today.  Based on Antony Johnson’s graphic novel “The Coldest City,” undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents with the help of Berlin operative David Percival (McAvoy).

I’ve been waiting on this movie for what seems like forever.  I’m sure I’ve probably mentioned this previously, but I never, ever watch movie trailers because they ruin the movie for me by showing the best parts. I do my very best to completely miss coming attractions when I go to see a movie. And if I should find myself sitting through them, I am busying myself with my phone and ignoring whatever is happening on the screen. For some reason I did watch the trailer for Atomic Blonde some months ago, and while it certainly made me believe this was going to be a must-see movie, it also showed most of the best parts of the film. Lesson learned.

So, since this movie is directed by Leitch one would expect the choreography of the fight scenes and stunts to be mind-blowingly awesome, and it was. Theron gets her ass kicked almost as much as she kicks ass – oh, and testicles. Yep. There are plenty of ball-kicks in there.  (Those poor guys.)  Car chases, shoot outs, hand to hand combat; you name it. It’s all here. I was nearly (notice I say, “nearly”) gripping my seat from the blows, but for me, while the action was plentiful, it wasn’t plentiful enough and it was nothing I’ve not seen before. I just haven’t seen Charlize Theron do it while so impeccably dressed. (So impeccably that you will mourn the senseless destruction of her fabulous ensembles.)  There is one epic scene with a couple of KGB agents that stands out which is so splendid, so perfectly done in every way, you will never forget it.

Theron’s character recounts what happened in Berlin in a debriefing and from there the film flips back and forth to the events of the past which took place in Berlin to the debriefing room. The scenes where we return to the debriefing room, while informative and entertaining at times, take the air out of the action sequences. I do understand that a basis for the story needs to be established and there needs to be some introduction to these characters, but I don’t believe the debriefing was the most effective way to accomplish that on film. I’ve never read the graphic novel and I don’t know if the movie was attempting to follow the format of the book, but if that is the case, similarly to the mistake made with The Girl on the Train (although not as catastrophically) (see my review here), it doesn’t really work. The fast pace is interrupted by the debriefing and the action never quite gains proper momentum to fully satisfy the viewer. At least I wasn’t satisfied.

We’ve heard better sound in other movies this year. I wasn’t blown away by the soundtrack although it was decent enough. The cinematography and camerawork are a compelling thing of beauty – particularly during action sequences. The wardrobe crew did a super-outstanding job of outfitting Charlize while we watched her do a whooooole lot of walking, or shall we say strutting, in black and white outfits with the most incredible shoes through the streets of Berlin. Her black and white outfits become a character in the movie because they were so lovely and she wore them all so well. Stilettos, cobblestone and secret missions don’t mix well and would never work for me (particularly if you add in the vodka this woman drank), but Charlize makes it look totally doable.

I have to address the lesbian scenes.  These are in the movie for a purpose which is to punctuate Lorraine’s ambiguity in all things.  The symbolism is found in her wardrobe, in her drink, in her emotional attachment and detachment, and in her sexuality.  So for this particular movie the character’s sexuality served a purpose and was not gratuitous.

The acting is good but I wasn’t “wowed.” Charlize’s performance is fine, but it left me wanting. Wanting to watch The Long Kiss Good Night so I could enjoy Geena Davis as kick ass Charly Baltimore… I don’t mean to compare movies or blondes but sometimes these things cannot be helped. (Perhaps it was the ass kicking, drinking, smoking and heavy eyeliner that beg the comparison to be drawn. And I really am going to watch The Long Kiss Good Night again if it rains this weekend.) James McAvoy is becoming “that dude” for me. Having last seen him in Split (here’s my review), perhaps he’s spoiled me for anything else he does. I enjoy watching him because he picks such diverse roles, and excels at them. I cannot wait to see what and/or who he will be or become next and I want to go back and watch every role he has ever played. (By the way, the first thing I ever saw him in was the original UK version of Shameless. If you’ve never watched Shameless or have only seen the American version, stream it.) If you can’t tell, I really like this guy. But here, while he is effortless in the role I wanted to see him push through and give me more. Again, I just wasn’t satisfied.

Atomic Blonde earned 6.5 out of 10 bloops. It’s not bad, but certainly could have been better.  It is worth seeing but I would stop short of saying that it is “good” because I cannot recommend you pay to see it in a theater.  (Definitely not full price! Perhaps a matinee.) This could be a set up for a series if the box office goes well, but this wasn’t the greatest introduction to these characters, unfortunately. I didn’t feel the sense of fun and adventure that I look for in an action movie. (And I mean… what type of weak-ass signature drink is that for a femme fatale anyway?)  Even when lives hang in the balance and there is so much at stake I want to feel like I am there; invested and going on the adventure with these characters.  I want to feel the suspense and the urgency. Other than through the actual setting, I just wasn’t transported to spy/double agent infested 1989 Berlin. I was just a girl watching a movie enjoying the occasional car chase, shoot out, fight scene or stunt… It wasn’t terrible, but somehow this one missed the mark and I wasn’t moved.  Definitely stream it when it becomes available.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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What I’m seeing this week…

The Black Prince
The Dark Tower

Previous Reviews

Good Time
Girls Trip
Spider-Man: Homecoming
The Big Sick
Baby Driver
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
Wonder Woman
Everything, everything
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Get Out

Hidden Figures
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
Hacksaw Ridge
Nocturnal Animals
Captain Fantastic
Florence Foster Jenkins
I Am Not Your Negro


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