‘Atomic Blonde’: “A gigantic piece of silliness”

❉ Blondes have more fun in this wild, sexed-up Bourne/Bond hybrid.

Capsule review: This movie was primarily designed for anyone who is interested in seeing Charlize Theron lip-smack other gorgeous women and shoot lots of baddies in the face.

The new super-spy actioner Atomic Blonde is exactly what the ads have promised: Extra-sexy Charlize Theron starring as a Bourne/Bond hybrid, shooting all sort of people in the head, and getting it on with a woman instead of a male lover. All of this should excite anyone who enjoys watching R-rated action films and beautiful women fooling around with other beautiful women.

In all honesty, the action genre has sort of been leading up to this gigantic piece of silliness, and because the director David Leitch (John Wick, the upcoming Deadpool 2) and writer Kurt Johnstad (300, Act of Valor) have such an uncommonly game star in Theron, who was seemingly up for anything, so the entire film takes on both a satirical bent and a traditional explosion of slickly choreographed fighting sequences that have been shot and cut for maximum visceral impact.

We’ve seen this plot before but it doesn’t matter, because the scenery is so wild, the atmosphere is so sexed-up, and the action is totally wild, especially during one particular set-piece that’s the best of its type in a very long time.

The film is based on the 2012 graphic novel by Sam Hart and Antony Johnston, and there’s certainly a neo-superhero vibe to the entire piece, just as you’d find in the John Wick films and The Raid and its unrelentingly insane sequel.

We’ve seen this plot before (a list of undercover operatives goes missing and bodies start dropping) but it doesn’t matter, because the scenery is so wild, the atmosphere is so sexed-up, and the action is totally wild, especially during one particular set-piece, which shouldn’t be spoiled, except to say that it’s the best of its type in a very long time. Everyone in the having-fun-and-collecting-a-paycheck supporting cast are all aces, especially James McAvoy as Theron’s handler, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, and the gorgeous Sofia Boutella as Theron’s love interest.

The convoluted plot is essentially a clothes-hanger for the action-sequences, but because all of it has been done seemingly for real, and because Theron seems so committed (she produced and developed the project for five years), the entire piece feels less cynical than one might imagine. When I first heard of this film, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – an ultra-violent spy thriller with Charlize Theron kissing girls on the side? And yes, while the heterosexual gaze is quite in evidence during this film, there’s something both progressive and illuminating about its wants and desires as a piece of wide-audience entertainment.

The pulsating musical score by Tyler Bates amps up the tension, in tandem with the razor-sharp editing by Elisabet Ronaldsdottir, who opts for clean-cutting instead of an overly-frenetic approach. The bad-ass ’80s-licious soundtrack is the icing on the retro cake.

Aesthetically, the film is lightning-quick and exceedingly photogenic, with all department heads getting a chance to show off in a big way and yet on a somewhat limited budget (reports indicate that $30 million was spent bringing this tale to life). Jonathan Sela’s smart widescreen lensing opts for long-takes and spatially-aware wide-shots which allow the viewer to understand where all of the various threats are coming from, while also creating a balletic-mystique that harkened back to some of the bravura camerawork found in John Woo’s Hard Boiled. Sela has also shot Transformers: The Last Knight, John Wick, and Law Abiding Citizen, and will be calling the shots from behind the camera on Deadpool 2. The nearly 10-minute one-take fight must be seen to be believed.

The pulsating musical score by Tyler Bates (Watchmen, Guardians of the Galaxy) amps up the tension, especially in tandem with the razor-sharp editing by Elisabet Ronaldsdottir (John Wick, Contraband), who opts for clean-cutting instead of an overly-frenetic approach to the mise-en-scene. The cold-war setting also gives the film a chilly, silvery-blue visual palette, with production designer David Scheunemann (working again with Leitch on Deadpool 2, art director on Inglorious Basterds and Cloud Atlas) giving the film a crumbling texture which makes thematic sense within the time period. The bad-ass ’80s-licious soundtrack is the icing on the retro cake.

It’s a fabulously designed movie, and if you’re looking for fun escapism with a wild-side twist, look no further than Atomic Blonde.


❉ ‘Atomic Blonde’ is a Focus Features production, distributed by Universal | Release Date: 28 July, 2017.

❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott.

❉ He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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