Atomic Blonde (2017) Review

I really wanted to be crazy about Atomic Blonde. I’d been looking forward to it since viewing the trailer 6 months prior. With my love for neon, moody lighting, femme fatales and “New Order” it should have been incredible. To my dismay I neither liked, nor disliked it. The fight sequences were the only badass thing about this movie. Overall it was just… a solid shoulder shrug.

 

 

Compositionally, Atomic Blonde could have been a bombshell, rooted in the light and reflections so loved in 80’s cinema. Maybe I’m being overly critical but most of the filler shots felt like cinematographer Jonathan Sela just haphazardly threw neon on everything and crossed his fingers. That being said, his 7 minute long action take near the end was simply superb. I’ve been on a best of the 80’s film bender and have seen some extremely well composed and aesthetically pleasing films  – see Michael Mann’s “Thief” from 1981 – which are hard to live up to. 

 

The spray painted graphics in the film just felt clunky, taking away from both the plot and the style.

 

 

The supporting performances didn’t do much for me either. James McAvoy was cartoonish at best. The believable performances were from star Charlize Theron and surprisingly an actor I’ve never seen before, Bill Skarsgård, who I hope to see more of in the future. Although Theron did a stand up job, I didn’t feel much for her cause. I wasn’t really rooting for her until the ending action sequence. Her “save the cat” moment came to late. 

 

 

I was really hoping the plot of Atomic Blonde would match the fighting sequences. But it just fell flat. What was that ending? It seemed like they weren’t sure how to communicate it. 

 

Back to the action. The good stuff. The use of fluid camera movements in the fight scenes were heavily influenced by film “Jon Wick”. Every brutal punch, stab and shot was engaging, stylish and entertaining. I’m relieved that the era of the “Borne Identity” shaky-cam style, chopping editing, action is being replaced by more fluid choreography and strategic camera positioning.

 

 

The accuracy of the fighting was refreshing as our hero is often cornered to use objects around her, like the heel of her shoe, strategic covers, patience, cunning and the body weight of her foes. Although she beats the bad guys, the bad guys sure beat her. She’s left looking like a punching bag.

 

Theron was very adamant about her character’s fighting ability. She constantly asked choreographers if a woman of her size could do what she was doing. She was satisfied and concluded with, “Yes, girls can do that.” This just added to the badassery and believability of the fight scenes. The more decent female lead action movies the better.

 

 

 

The last major action sequence of the film was brilliant. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was the moment where Theron, the action, and the plot shined like the beautiful neon of the 1980’s.

 

I give “Atomic Blonde” 7 punches out of 10 kicks.

 

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