Wednesday, 26 July 2017

ATOMIC BLONDE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Special screening at Fantasia 2017 of this lifeless, empty, boring espionage action thriller, not so special.

Charlize kicks ass, but the movie does not.

Atomic Blonde (2017)
Dir. David Leitch
Scr. Kurt Johnstad
Nvl. Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy,
John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When a movie featuring Charlize Theron kicking ass and engaging in explicit lesbian action (with nudity, no less) during the waning days of the Cold War in Berlin turns out to be a big fat boring mess, the disappointment is enough to hurt. Adding insult to my injury is that I had the distinctly extraordinary experiences of being in East Berlin before the wall came down (in 1988) and actually being in Berlin when the damn wall did finally come down (in 1989). My sufferance through the overall period/atmosphere inadequacies of Atomic Blonde (no matter how many "period" tunes have been annoyingly stuffed onto the film's soundtrack) is all the greater.

Though screenwriter Kurt Johnston (adapting the Antony Jonston/Sam Hart graphic novel) loads up on the tropes of espionage thrillers, he does so with the kind of ham-fisted inadequacy that makes the whole affair unnecessarily obtuse and worse, so that we finally don't care about any of the characters and/or proceedings. I was forced to almost constantly check the time, agog at how slow and dull it all was.

Director David Leitch (co-director of the much-better-written John Wick) at least knows how to stage all the action sequences (especially one delicious set piece that feels like it's all one long take) so that we're not annoyed by the usual herky-jerky on display in virtually every other contemporary action movie, but sadly, his efforts are all for nought since none of these ultra-violent extravaganzas have anything more going for them than the craft itself. We have no emotional stakes in anything or anyone and as such, we're bored to distraction when the film's onscreen participants are being shot and/or pulverized.

For those who care, the picture details the attempts of super-blonde British super-spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to extract an East German political prisoner (Eddie Marsan). A dirty double-dealer (the dullishly smarmy James McAvoy) gums up the works whilst a lesbian wannabe spy (Sofia Boutella) beds down our heroine and places herself at great risk. All of this nonsense is relayed in flashback as Lorraine is interrogated by her boss (Toby Jones) and a C.I.A. bureaucrat (John Goodman). None of this carries any weight or interest and is certainly bereft of the grand atmosphere inherent in works such as the classic John le Carré film adaptations like Martin Ritt's The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Tomas Alfredson's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the better James Bond efforts with Sean Connery.

Atomic Blonde is Dullsville - from beginning to end. And oh, does it end. It has one of those interminably predictable endings upon endings upon endings. Not caring about plot and character is one thing, but being boring is the picture's greatest sin.


Atomic Blonde, a Focus Features release had a Special Screening at Fantasia 2017.