REVIEW: Atomic Blonde
Directed by David Leitch
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by David Leitch, Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Roland Møller, and Toby Jones. Theron plays hostile MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, sent to retrieve a microfilm list from inside a network of double-crossing, extremely violent spies on both sides of The Berlin Wall in 1989.
Director David Leitch is most famous for co-directing John Wick with Chad Stahelski, who have both been stunt coordinators on Blade, The Matrix Trilogy, Fight Club, V For Vendetta, The Bourne Ultimatum, 300 and many others. Leitch is making his solo directorial debut here, before moving on to Deadpool 2 next year, and Atomic Blonde is filled with the extensively intricate and beautiful fight sequences that have made the John Wick movies so influential. The direction beyond the action is also quite stylistic and bleeds with references to classic films and graphic novels, something that could fit well with Deadpool’s humour.
Charlize Theron plays the complicated title character with the appropriate amount of complexity and strength. Lorraine is never defined by her gender, and is always in control, even when inside she is certainly loosing it. Boutella was also a standout, and her relationship with Theron was a riveting highlight in some truly shocking ways. McAvoy, Goodman, Marsan and Jones all perform well with what they’re given as well, but that is where the problem lies.
The movie’s story is decent, echoing a kind of Hitchcockian suspense thriller, pumped up by a killer soundtrack and a cynical time and place setting, but it was a struggle to follow the damn plot. Characters are double-crossing one another all the time, and I could not remember who was in league with who, who was the secret villain, and why we had to have as many characters at play as we did. Cut about four of them and things would come into a better perspective. But the filmmakers have just left in all this dangling stuff, these meaningless side characters, resulting in quite a messy movie.
Atomic Blonde has some admittedly incredible cinematography from Johnathan Sela, supports interesting twists on gender depictions in action movies, and Leitch proves himself as a confident visual stylist. But the movie is severely unfocused, bloated even at under 2 hours, and the script is generic nonsense. Atomic Blonde could have been a worthy equal to the John Wick franchise, but the result is something closer to the last two Jason Bourne movies.