A neon-soaked, hell-for-leather action extravaganza helmed by half of the directors (not cut in half) of John Wick?! Oh and it stars Charlize Theron, who can do no The-wrong (nyhehehe amiright?). Needless to say, when trailers first dropped for Atomic Blonde I was pumped out of my mind. The visuals, the cast, the director, and best of all (no really, the BEST of all)…a full blown 80’s soundtrack to die for. Literally. With so much going right, could Atomic Blonde possibly go WRONG? So tell me, how do I feel? Tell me, how do I feel? Well this is NO Blue Monday, because the New Order has come: Atomic Blonde really is all that and a bag of chips. Well, chipped teeth maybe.
Yes, it’s even cooler than that guy.
Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch (John Wick) and stars Charlize ‘holy-cow-I’m-a-badass’ Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) as a spy who’s come to Berlin to kick ass and chew bloriczyna-gum. And she’s all out of soviet knockoff bubble- I mean Bloriczyna-gum. Set in ’89 just as the Berlin wall is about to come down, Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is sent in to recover intel from a downed fellow agent. And at the rate she’s whopping ass and taking names, if they don’t hurry with that sledgehammer she might just knock down that wall herself. But it’s not all about Lorraine, as we meet perpetually drunk fellow agent Percival (James McAvoy), a French vixen who’s NOT mummified this time (Sofia Boutella) and two suits to whom she tells her tale of woe (on tape) – John Goodman and Toby Jones. These guys (and gal) among many others make up a truly killer cast that’s familiar in a ‘good ol movie I’ve rented a million times’ way. Like Die Hard! “Come down to Berlin, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…”
“I’m a sneaky beaky ninja”
With one of the two action geniuses behind John Wick directing this movie, you know 2 things straight off the bat: 1: this movie is going to look amazing. And 2: this action is going to look amazing. Though not part of the ‘Wick world’ at all (it’s actually based off of the 2012 graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’) this film is so close to John Wick style and content that it could effortlessly slot into the series. The frenetic action is a welcome return and that killer style is always a plus in my book. Like, seriously, that FREAKING LIGHTING. I die and go to heaven every time I see well used neon lighting. Of course, Leitch brings equal parts style and action here and proves yet again that he and Stahelski (co-director of John Wick and director of John Wick: Chapter 2) are the new masters of action film making. There is some amazing stunt work and hard-as-nails realism at work here that really packs a visceral wallop. From car chases to firefights, Atomic Blonde has it all. Not to mention a stairwell AND apartment fight sequence that (I think) is close to perfection. Mwah. Byotiful. And I’m not just talking about you, Charlize *peers over at McAvoy*.
And now, the height of her technical training: the good ol’ ‘sack whack’.
HOLD MY LEG WARMERS because this 80’s soundtrack is off the chain!!!!
Okay, I am totally 153% biased on this one. From the very moment this movie opened with Blue Monday by New Order I had a stupidly big grin on my face. I could feel my critiquing hat slipping off as I fought against my inner 80’s-loving demons. Thankfully, this movie is not a broken mess, so I don’t have to feel bad about myself. That said, this soundtrack could carry a smoldering carcass of a film across the finish line. You’ve got everything here from David Bowie to George Michael to A Flock of Seagulls (dat hairstyle tho) and it is glorious! Watching Lorraine beat the ever-loving crap out of dude after dude to the sounds of ‘Father figure’ is just pure bliss for a fan of 80’s music AND good cinema. Not to mention the fact that if you use David Bowie’s Cat People (putting out fire) in your movie, that’s the soundtrack equivalent of bribing me. Just fyi, Hollywood.
Actual footage of me watching Atomic Blonde
Okay so we’ve covered how great this movie looks and sounds, but how does it play? Well, we all know how great James McAvoy is (-cough-my review of Split–cough-) and if you don’t think Charlize Theron is one of the best actresses working today then you’re just wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Charlize kills it as Lorraine the badass MI6 agent, and McAvoy proves once again what a stunning character actor he is as Percival. These two serve up complex and interesting characters in what could have been very 2D roles. Sofia Boutella is good here, but once again underused. Come ON people, give this girl a juicier role! I don’t need to tell you how good John Goodman is (it’s in his name for god sake), and Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and Bill Skarsgard are also all solid performers here. Interestingly, Til Schweiger – who starred in Inglourious Basterds – is also in this movie. David Bowie’s Cat People (putting out fire) also played in ‘Basterds; accompanying many close ups of a blonde woman looking determinedly into the distance (see 3.06 here...yaknowwhatimsayin?). Here this happens again, but with Charlize Theron instead of Melanie Laurent. Coincidence? Or maybe that song just follows Til around…hmmm.
“You look like a ripoff Tyler Durden. Without the soap bar.”
So we’ve got killer style and action, a deadly soundtrack and a murderously good cast, so this has got to be a perfect movie right? Well, as my good friend George Michael said, ‘sometimes the clothes do not make the man’. You see the only chink in Atomic Blonde’s armour is the tiniest nitpick that keeps it just below a perfect film. The storytelling. Atomic Blonde employs the good ol’ “Okay, tell us what happened” opening, where Lorraine sits down with a couple of peeps to chat about all the cool shit she did. Obviously this kinda kills the tension of all the cool shit she does, because we know she’s survived it to tell the tale. You can see why this isn’t the best way of telling a story. Thankfully, Atomic Blonde throws enough twists in the works that this old, tired storytelling template actually works. So sure, its method might kill some of its madness, but there is some David Fincher style twisting going on here, and Atomic Blonde saves its skin because of it.
“Okay so tell us again. Who is John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?”
All in all, I couldn’t really be happier with Atomic Blonde. Nitpicking about storytelling aside, this is based on a graphic novel (which employ that technique a LOT), and as someone who didn’t know that going in…frankly Mr Shankly, I couldn’t care less. This is a FUN movie that isn’t defined by being that (lookin’ at you, Suicide Squad). Atomic Blonde is part crazy love letter to the 80’s, part love letter to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Never thought you’d see that combo, huh? The action here won’t disappoint, the acting is top-notch and the soundtrack is guaranteed to spike illegal downloads of 80’s chart toppers ASAP. Atomic Blonde has easily leapt up my top 10 list of 2017, and it should be your number 1 must see of the week.
Wicked Cool rating – 98/100
Atomic Blonde drops an atomic bombshell with a lethal A. *80’s music and neon bias not included.
Atomic Blonde is in cinemas right now so GET OUT AND SEE IT NOW.