Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde (2017) *Hardly Nuclear*

Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde
Charlize Theron is undoubtedly the best action actress working today and Atomic Blonde, adapted from the comic book “The Coldest City”, does nothing but cement that status.  Directed by David Leitch, one of the creators of John Wick, Atomic Blonde isn’t so much a female Wick as it is a hybrid of Salt and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  It has some great action set pieces, but a largely boilerplate espionage script that’s elevated by the talent of Theron and co-star James McAvoy.

Charlize Theron and James McAvoy in Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde is set in the closing days of the Cold War in Berlin during the ten days surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall.  It’s certainly an interesting time and place to set the film, and if the film does nothing else, it oozes the 1980s.  From the pounding soundtrack, to the Reagan “tear down this wall” speech, to the clothes, neon everywhere, football-sized car phones, and analog tech, you are firmly in 1989…when you’re following  Lorraine Broughton (Theron) through her 10 days of hell in Berlin.  The story structure, though, is a debrief after the fact, and we flash between Broughton briefing MI-6 and the CIA and the events in question.

Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

Broughton is sent to Berlin after the murder of a British operative and to liaise with David Percival (James McAvoy) in rooting out a double-agent who may be responsible for the death.  The plot is overly convoluted without ever really being very interesting.  Broughton isn’t so much an investigator as she is a walking human weapon of mass destruction.  The story tries to be overly clever with itself while it’s really only setting Theron into situation after situation where she gets the snot knocked out of her and stacks bodies like cord-wood in her wake.  I mean for Pete’s sake look at how she looks at the end of her stay in lovely Berlin:

Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde

That’s AFTER she had a bath (there was more blood prior).  There are some brutal fight scenes in this, and that’s not a criticism because when there’s actually action, that’s when the movie is at its most entertaining.  There’s a fight down an apartment stairwell that’s one of the most impressively choreographed action set pieces I’ve seen in quite awhile.  Theron sells the action better than any other actress, and you really believe she can hand out and take the beatings she doles out in Atomic Blonde.  It’s just a shame that the infrastructure of the plot couldn’t do justice to those set pieces or the setting of the film.  It’s solid rental, and a feather in Theron’s cap as an action star, but I don’t think you’ll see Atomic Blonde Chapter Two.

6.5/10

Atomic Blonde Poster

12 thoughts on “Movie Review: Atomic Blonde (2017) *Hardly Nuclear*”

  1. I almost want to see this in the theater, because it’s been so long since I’ve seen a good straightforward action movie on a big screen, and I need some kind of vicarious release right now, because Reality.

    Your comparison to Salt has me worried though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s apt. It’s has much better fight scenes, but with lesser actors than Theron, McAvoy, Goodman, and others, this would have been utterly forgettable. It’s no John Wick Chapter Two, which if you haven’t seen….dooo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK, here’s my question about that. I never walk out of movies. Even if I don’t like a film I stick with it, because once I’ve invested my time i want to see how things turn out, and I have a high threshold for violence, so I never walk out because I can’t take the content. I’ve walked out of a movie exactly twice during the past fifteen or twenty years. The first time was with Terry Gillaim’s Tideland, and the second time was with the first John Wick. The only thing i got out of that movie was an idea for a comedy sketch where you see all the sequels, and in the second movie it’s his guinea pigs that are slaughtered, and then his tank of tropical fish in the third one, and then in John Wick 4 they make the mistake of targeting his sea monkeys. But I could not take the film. Is the third one noticeably better, or different?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have problems with the first John Wick. Dead wives as plot points are problems with me. THE DOG IS FINE! What they did was take the idea of this hidden world just under the surface of assassins and criminals operating by this arcane code and blew it up into one of the best action movies I have seen in a very, very long time. I think the things you found distasteful in Wick you won’t in Chapter 2 and it makes the first film better in retrospect, but it’s literally half the film the sequel is.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Okay. Okay. I can’t believe this, but on your recommendation, I am going to watch John Wick 2.

        I’m glad to hear the dog turns out to be OK. Dogs are better creatures than us.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Why thank you. Yeah, it’s the perfect definition of a “rental”. It’s not spectacular, aside from the stairwell fight, and it’s a nice way to kill two hours if you’re bored, but it’s by no means a new action classic (which Theron can make with the right script).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It only took nearly 20 years for studio executives to figure it out, but then they’re not terribly swift. We need a Mad Max: Furiosa spin-off. There’s a fifth Mad Max film in pre-production called The Wasteland, but I’m not sure if it’s got Theron. Tom Hardy did kind of let her take the lead role in the last one, so I couldn’t blame him if he wanted to headline his own, but that character definitely has more life in it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I loved Tom Hardy in Mad Max so I def want to see him take the lead in the next one!!! But honestly, hollywood is not making a lot of good movies anymore

        Liked by 1 person

      3. No, if you want quantity of quality, there’s more to be found on TV, especially if you’re looking for something original. Last year was unusually good and deep, with 30-40 really good films, but this year may have the weakest overall summer in recent memory with only really five good films.

        Like

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