Atomic Blonde: Another Predictable Spy Movie

Leo Paley

Atomic Blonde is the definition of style over substance. David Leitch’s first major directorial debut (he directed the Deadpool 2 trailer, Deadpool: No Good Deeds), Leitch is stepping out of his position as a stuntman and it is apparent he’s out of his comfort zone.

The movie’s one saving grace is a 20-minute long single take of Charlize Theron brutally fighting her way down a stairwell. For a movie directed by someone who has been a part of the stunt industry for over 30 years, the movie is surprisingly lacking in action. Those going for the nonstop action thriller promised by the trailers will be disappointed.

Atomic Blonde in many ways is the toned down version of John Wick meets Hardcore Henry. Whereas John Wick was a welcome rebirth of long take action films after the rise of the Bourne style of shaky cameras and rapid editing, Atomic Blonde attempts to juggle an unnecessarily convoluted plot with all of the subtlety of a bull in a china shop with a surprising lack of action. The heavier focus of the film sat almost solely on the ability of the protagonist to kill everything in sight. 

The movie merely features occasional action, instead of being built around it. On the other side of Atomic Blonde is Hardcore Henry, a film where the stunt team was allowed to run rampant during production and create some of the most intense, captivating action sequences that refuse to cut away from the brutal violence being depicted.

It is certainly a pretty, stylized film. Every shot is polarizing in its use of color, and many scenes end up being set in unnecessary places in order to get pretty shots, but this stylistic cinematography brings nothing to the film as a whole.

Multiple times throughout the movie characters will go outside to have a one minute discussion just to get a well framed shot with extra scenery in the frame at the end of it, and this unnecessary manipulation of the movie for stylistic purposes begins to drag the film down. Eventually, it feels like cinematographer Jonathan Sela (A Good Day to Die Hard, John Wick, Transformers: The Last Knight)  took the club shootout scene from John Wick, and unsuccessfully attempted to turn it into an entire movie.

The films supposed twist endings are telegraphed from the beginning, and bring nothing exciting or surprising to the finale, largely due to the final twist being in the trailer for the film. Within the opening 45 minutes anyone paying any sort of detail to the movie will be able to predict the antagonist and the double crosser. The movie spends more time on its one dimensional, unlikeable, unimpressive characters than it should, and ultimately suffers heavily because of it.

The movie only truly shines once, as Charlize Theron holds nothing back in one impressive and gruesome fight at the end of the second act, and it is refreshing to watch someone do their own stunts with the capability and ease that she does. Sadly, it isn’t seen again at any point in the film, Theron (Hancock, Prometheus, Mad Max Fury Road) and James McAvoy (Wanted, The Last King of Scotland, X-men franchise), who we never see do anything impressive, are both wasted potential.

Yet another run of the mill, predictable spy film that’s bogged down by an erratic plot, disappointing action, and a general feeling of wasted potential, those excited for Atomic Blonde are better off waiting to stream it online.

2 out of 5 Sails




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