‘Atomic Blonde’ deploys masterful fights to distract from murky script

| July 28, 2017

“Atomic Blonde” knows its purpose in a movie theatre, and that is deliver some of the most stylish and elaborate fight scenes recently filmed. And in this regard, the film shoots a perfect bullseye. atomic blonde

Charilize Theron’s Lorraine arrives in the neon-fused hornets nest of late 80s Berlin on a mission to recover a list of agents that have fallen into the wrong hands. All that is needed to know is Lorraine is a bad ass, which is demonstrated within five minutes of her setting foot in the city. From then on, the film tries its best to get from fight scene to fight scene as efficiently as possible, even when things like the film’s plot look to get into the way of it.

The film is structured with moments of Lorraine being debriefed in the aftermath of the mission. Bruised and black-eyed, she gives snarky remarks to her superiors as she tells the tale of what happened. The problem is that the overall scope of why she is in Berlin isn’t given much weight with a motive lifted off of several spy TV shows and a dead colleague thrown in to add a dash of revenge.

And this is the biggest detractor from the film: the characters just really aren’t worth caring for. James McAvoy does a great job portraying the station agent Lorraine is supposed to tag along with, but Percival is nothing more than a nihilist looking to take glee in the chaos of Berlin. Unlike Lorraine, who is entirely focused on the mission and wound tightly enough to kick ass whenever called for, Percival gets the benefit of playing a foil who nearly struts through scenes of carnage like it’s his own personal ball pit. While people run away from being shot, Percival takes a second to decide if the hat he ripped from a Berlin soldier is stylish enough for him to wear. And it plays with comedic value, but it really doesn’t go anywhere beyond that. Percival also seems to ooze slime, as does most characters in the movie. “Trust no one” is a mantra in the film, but there’s a difference between an intricate web of allegiances and a knotted up ball of yarn masquerading as a manipulative puzzle. “Atomic Blonde” is the latter. Every character seems to be deceiving every other character and hints at deceiving even beyond that.

Most scenes ooze Euro-80s music and director David Leitch puts the camera in interesting places for scenes to play out. Aesthetically, the movie is beautiful in a way that would also describe Jackson Pollock making a painting by shooting someone’s brain matter onto a canvas.

The film also makes sure each fight is well thought out, and it builds up to a doozy of one with a one-take scene traveling down a stairwell, through multiple rooms and out of the building. It truly is something to watch, and Leitch, Theron and everyone involved did their homework to make sure the tension remains high and the motivations remain clear. It’s scenes like these that the film could use more of, where at least for the scene, we understand who wants what and start to empathize with the characters.

Leitch did this great with “John Wick”, where Keanu Reeve’s character is quickly built up to be likeable and someone you want to see make it through to their objective, which makes later pay-offs feel that much sweeter.

Lorraine keeps all of her emotions too close to the vest that not even the audience knows which way she’s thinking at times. Those motives are cocooned beneath a tough, resilient exterior that knows how to throw a punch in their absence. Like Lorraine, the film could learn a thing or two about letting people see through the flash to get to a few morsels of truth that they could hold on to for the film. If done right, people walking out of the film might care a bit more about where characters end up by film’s end as well as the awesomeness of the fight scenes.

About the Author:

Filed in: Film, Film Reviews

Comments are closed.