Review: ATOMIC BLONDE (2017) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Review: ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Lorraine (Charlize Theron) uses rubber hose to beat up the Berlin police in ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

ATOMIC BLONDE centres on an undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who is assigned to Berlin during the Cold War era to retrieve a missing list of secret agents. Once there, she joins forces with another agent named David Percival (James McAvoy). Soon, the mission turns out to be more complicated than it seems.

REVIEW: At the heart of ATOMIC BLONDE, the movie cranks up to the eleven with not one, but two amazing long-take action sequences. First up is the stairwell fight scene, in which Charlize Theron's Lorraine gives her all to fend off the henchmen with martial arts skill, guns and everyday objects, notably a corkscrew. Shot with the same handheld urgency that reminds me of THE RAID movies, the fight sequences are well-executed in an appropriately brutal and messy manner. The kind where you can feel the pain and its visceral impact of every kick and punch.

The brutal stairwell fight sequence in ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

As soon as the fight sequence is over, the movie doesn't stop there. It continues with another long-take sequence, this time a CHILDREN OF MEN-like car chase shot in a claustrophobic POV angle from the car interior. The chase sequence is no doubt an incredible piece of action choreography. It even makes you longing for more. Had the director (David Leitch) manage to sustain such momentum during the earlier part as well as the rest of the movie, ATOMIC BLONDE would have been easily ranked as an instant action classic.

Lorraine (Charlize Theron) and Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) during a car chase scene in ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Sure, the movie does deliver a few other worthy action sequences (the rubber hose-whipping scene comes to mind) here and there. There's no question that Leitch, the co-director of the first JOHN WICK (2014), continues to live up his reputation as a veteran stunt coordinator who knows well how to deliver great action sequences. It certainly shows in this movie with all the impressive choreography and fluidity of a camerawork. Speaking of camerawork, you'll be surprised it was shot by Jonathan Sela. He is the same person who also in charge of the epilepsy-inducing camerawork of TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT. What a huge difference between working with Leitch and Michael Bay.

Charlize Theron as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton in ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

Kudos also go to Leitch for making the non-martial arts actress like Charlize Theron looks good in the action department. In fact, Theron herself has reportedly spent months of gym time with her training team to play the physically-demanding MI6 agent. Her hard works paid off well as she fights convincingly like a seasoned action star. After proving her physical prowess in 2015's MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, you could say Theron has successfully reinvented herself as the new female action star in Hollywood. Not to mention she is sexy as hell. Whether she dresses in a simple Boy London t-shirt or rocks in a smokin' hot ensemble of a patterned sweater, coat, mini skirt, garters and knee-length boots during one of the fight sequences, Theron looks terrific in every '80s fashion getup.

The rest of the technical credits are equally praiseworthy, notably on Sula's arresting cinematography that captures the neon-lit landscape as well as the cold vibe of the 1989 Soviet-era Berlin. Leitch also made decent use of some of the '80s pop staples ranging from New Order's "Blue Monday" to George Michael's "Father Figure" throughout the movie.

Lorraine (Charlize Theron) and David Percival (James McAvoy) in a scene from ATOMIC BLONDE (2017)

But for all the hard-hitting action sequences, ATOMIC BLONDE stumbles in the plot and characters department. The plot, which is apparently based on the graphic novel series called The Coldest City, tries hard to complicate matters with double crosses and triple crosses. But the movie's attempt at telling an old-school spy movie feels either too muddled or heavy-handed. Whenever the action stops, the movie slogs every now and then. At times, it even halts to a near standstill. It doesn't help either when the movie throws in a couple of twists that are neither shocking nor gripping. As for the characters, only Charlize Theron is worth mentioning here. It's a pity to see recognisable faces like James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Sofia Boutella are all sadly neglected into forgettable performances.

While ATOMIC BLONDE is far from a genre classic, this late summer-movie offering remains a must-see for those who wanna seek out pure, unadulterated action mayhem.

The action and Charlize Theron's solid performance rocks in ATOMIC BLONDE, but the twisty plot does little to elevate this from reaching to its fullest potential.

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