Atomic Blonde Screen 14 articles

Atomic Blonde


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  • The deceptive twists and cynical moods of espionage take place in nostalgically bleak Cold War cityscapes, but the fine points of spy craft are either reduced to mere winks or amplified to bone-thwacking and gore-spraying martial artistry. Theron keeps her cool throughout the pummelling gyrations, but the film strains to achieve a breathless panache and a lurid swagger for which Leitch’s direction is too heavy-footed and literal; a deft metal-bashing automotive ballet comes too late to help.

  • Where John Wick took its own clichés and distilled them to their essences, however, Atomic Blonde opts for mere pile-on. Framing the story around a later debriefing from a wounded Lorraine that casts most of the action as flashback, the film constantly comments on itself in a manner similar to the films of Guy Ritchie, whose intricately plotted yet derivatively pointless capers lay the blueprint for the spy games on display here.

  • Lorraine may be femme in the sheets but she’s always butch in the streets: The most coherent moments of the simultaneously byzantine and dumb Atomic Blonde are its nimbly choreographed fight scenes, episodes that best show off the aloof appeal of Theron, laying waste to Stasi agents (or were they Russians?) with a hot plate.

  • As long as Theron is in motion, she’s a compelling presence, but Atomic Blonde is also heavy on plot, in a way that weighs it down instead of grounding it... Such efforts at depth are sincere but beside the point in a film whose real mandate is flashy diversion. And it’s hard to reconcile the script’s attempts at seriousness with the fundamental trashiness of the material, or the glibly ironic use of period pop music on the soundtrack.

  • If watching Charlize Theron kick a truckload of Soviet-sympathizing ass sounds to you like a fine Saturday night at the movies, then go see Atomic Blonde and enjoy... For myself, I will say that the particular kind of “fun” to be found in a slick and shallow spy fantasy like Atomic Blonde feels peculiarly arid in a moment as desperate for substance and meaning as our own.

  • The movie deals in archetype, even as it fudges the balancing-act between essence and one-dimensionality. From thinly-sketched characters to an obvious (and unnecessarily convoluted) right old Le Carré-on of a plot, there’s little here to trouble the pulse between action beats. In that department at least, Leitch finds surer – if by no means consistent – footing.

  • It’s a movie that has it both ways; it shows how the sausage of freedom is made, with gory battles behind the façades of public life—but it turns that gory combat into a new façade, another illusion that hides still others that are far more complex, troubling, and unresolved. Leitch’s film posits the very terms of Western-style freedom, and of the fun that it fosters and purveys, as this blissful state of not knowing—or, rather, it poses this not knowing as a blissful state.

  • This can be pretty fun, but also tiring in stretches; Leitch’s fetishistic interest in clothes, scar tissue, furniture, and different shades of mood lighting and lens flare gives some of the action-less portions of Atomic Blonde a glazed-over, narcotic pace. (The flashback framing device has almost no value, apart from surface texture.) Its brand of purely cosmetic bad-assery is never exactly boring, but it’s also intentionally uninvolving, even on a visceral level.

  • Leitch was one of the directors on “John Wick,” a model of economic genre filmmaking, and he gives this movie’s action scenes the same visceral quality. Lorraine punches and is punched, and her body is soon mapped by bruises and abrasions. It’s a lot of abuse for such puny returns, even if the fights are the best parts... Leitch understands the expressivity of hand-to-hand fights and he frames them accordingly, pushing in when it counts and pulling back to show entire bodies in kinetic motion.

  • Personality and back story are for wusses. Or for men. Or for James Bond. Lorraine Broughton welcomes your box-office dollars, but the last thing she requires is your sympathy, or your engagement, or any response more complex than a simple appreciation for the beautiful, inscrutable, narrative-defiant object that she is.

  • It may be high in empty calories, but craftsmanship of this level is rare and exhilarating, and worth surviving some muddled plotting to appreciate. Theron has a background as a dancer — she trained in ballet until a knee injury altered her career — and the choreography not only serves the deadly elegance of her form, but makes the camera her invisible partner. Their pas de deux is a knockout.

  • That’s the key to Theron’s performance: as tough and cool as her Broughton is, she’s not soulless. It hurts to see her take a punch. But oh, how good it feels to see her throw one! Theron is all limbs, standing tall in a wicked assortment of stilettos and narrow, svelte trousers. When she moves, every muscle is in tune with the picture’s robust, new-wavey soundtrack (which makes fine use of, among other songs, David Bowie’s ominously seductive “Cat People”).

  • The reality is that Atomic Blonde is neither a reactionary neo-exploitation flick nor a boldly feminist landmark... At a moment in which everything lends itself to a political reading, there's something reassuring about the way the movie's slick surfaces repel such attempts. The film... could really bring the country together in appreciation of the straightforward gratification of cool clothes, pretty people, and breathtakingly choreographed violence.

  • Leitch favours a sleazy, neon aesthetic that looks like an X-rated, ultraviolent knock-off of a Duran Duran video. The soundtrack is a largely credible mix tape of 80s pop-rock featuring New Order, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees and, perhaps inevitably, Nena’s 99 Luftballons. But it’s in the action that Leitch, formerly a stunt co-ordinator and second unit director, shines.

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