an ATOMIC BLONDE musing
From one half of the director duo of JOHN WICK comes the latest in a long wave of badass assassin movies. ATOMIC BLONDE tries too hard to innovate the genre and ends up collapsing under its weight. Charlize Theron kicks ass as the titular character, but it’s not enough to make up for this mess of a movie.
For what should be an awesome kickass movie, it’s surprisingly boring for most of its runtime and has a huge structural problem. The few action sequences are yawn-worthy at best; coming off JOHN WICK, it’s not too much to ask for some more exciting set pieces with actual stakes. This isn’t a spoiler since you find it out in the first few minutes of the film, but most of the film is told in flashbacks, so we all know she survives later. If the movie lets the events play out in chronological order, it’d be more interesting and suspenseful, without compromising weird or sudden turns when cutting back and forth between the flashbacks and the debrief. And when the flashbacks have their fight scenes, there’s nothing dynamic about what’s going on. The fights felt stale and boring, making it really feel choreographed.
BUT the one great part in the movie is that “one take” sequence that lasts at least 7 minutes or so in the stairwell (that’s only in quotes because there’s no way in hell that was done in one continuous shot). The choice to make it completely quiet was powerful, making the punches and kicks that landed really pop. You can see that these killers are also not superheroes, as they take a while to recover from a hit and we really feel that. It’s a sprawling fight that leaves the audience breathless, but the only good thing (besides the great set design, relishing in the 80’s aesthetic) about ATOMIC BLONDE.
Let’s get into some spoilers that really makes the movie not work as a whole. The end of the film operates on the fact that Theron, in fact, is the traitor they were searching for the whole time. If you’re trying to set up a twist, it’s more interesting if you set up much more characters (and actually have engaging characters, in general). Since we’re not supposed to know her true motive, that makes her harder to connect to. When your most interesting character is third billed, you know something is wrong with your movie. Sofia Boutella is the only character whose motives are fully fleshed out, and neither Theron nor McAvoy is engaging because we don’t care. A good twist is supposed to make you see the movie in a different light, but this one only complicates the movie further.
ATOMIC BLONDE is a mess, with one incredible fight scene thrown in. It sucks since this movie had so much potential, but it was all tossed when the flashback structure made it more complicated than it needed to be, and the writing and direction does no favors for the whole.
RATING: I HATE MY LIFE
(Refer to my rating system HERE!)