Atomic Blonde (2017)

*. I wasn’t paying much attention when I decided to take a chance on this one. Directed by David Leitch. The name didn’t ring a bell, but then the DVD box says that he directed (co-directed, actually) John Wick. Oh, shit.
*. I don’t mean to knock Leitch. He got his start, I believe, as a stunt man and he’s certainly capable of doing a great fight scene. But I didn’t like John Wick (though I did like the sequel, not directed by Leitch) so I didn’t have much hope for this one.
*. It should have been much better. I’d rather watch Charlize Theron for a couple of hours over Keanu Reeves for any amount of time. The action scenes are almost exclusively martial arts and fisticuffs instead of first-person-shooter video game nonsense. But aside from that . . .
*. Well, the fights are good. Theron makes good use of a power cord in one, and then there’s a prolonged tussel in a stairwell and adjacent apartments that’s wonderfully done up to make it look like it’s all a single take (which it isn’t). But, um, aside from that . . .
*. I can think of few other action films where I cared less about the plot. I mean I cared so little I didn’t even bother trying to follow what was going on. There’s a twist at the end that meant nothing to me. These twists only work, I think we can lay it down as a rule, when you actually care what’s going on before the twist.
*. It’s apparently based on a graphic novel that I haven’t read. As far as I can tell, Leitch didn’t really care much about this side of things either. On the DVD commentary he remarks how the music was meant to drive the movie right from the start. So again we’re watching a video game, maybe one of those Grand Theft Auto ones with the retro soundtrack turning it into a violent jukebox.

*. I guess I should like the music more, since it’s what I grew up with, but it’s all remixes and I didn’t see how much of it had anything to do with what was going on. I laughed the first time I heard Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and rolled my eyes the second time.
*. Nice seeing Stalker on the big screen, but was that really what East German audiences were watching at the multiplex in the ’80s?
*. Yes, Theron as the lethal lady in lingerie, and with a (clichéd) lesbian sex scene to boot, is a plus. But was she even trying to act? She hardly shows any emotion at all the entire movie. Keanu Reeves might have done that.
*. For Leitch the directive was that “cool overrides everything.” Given the basic grammar of this type of movie, isn’t that more like a default setting? Wouldn’t it have been more of a challenge to have injected a note of almost anything other than cool into the proceedings?
*. Was there really any point to the framing device of the debriefing? The story certainly didn’t seem complex enough to warrant it, and I don’t see how it made any difference.
*. I’m a little surprised at the decent reviews this one got. Theron got a lot of praise, but I thought she was basically a robot and anybody could have played the part as well. Other than that, this is a movie with a couple of really good fight scenes and nothing else.

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