2017-08-09 / Arts and Entertainment

Part spy thriller part action film, 'Atomic Blonde' excels at neither


— FOCUS FEATURES— FOCUS FEATURES“I don’t care how you get it, who you upset, or where it takes you. Bring it home.”

Above is a line straight from the graphic novel “The Coldest City,” by Antony Johnston, and it perfectly sums up how I felt about its adaptation into “Atomic Blonde.”

“Atomic Blonde” tells the story of the sensual yet often savage Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an elite spy in MI6 and an agent who's willing to use all of her lethal skills to stay alive.

As the Berlin Wall is about to fall, Broughton travels into the heart of the city. Once there, she teams up with David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way to the truth.

From the get-go I am not sure a better actress could have been chosen to play Lorraine Broughton. Just hearing that Theron was cast in a “John Wick”-style action lead role one could feel she was a perfect choice.

Every role Theron chooses and performs has a certain mystique to it and she casts a shadow of badassery over every character she portrays. “Atomic Blonde” is no exception, and Broughton is a role Theron was born to play. She brings a “John Wick” aesthetic with a hint of Sharon Stone from “Basic Instinct.”

Her style plays beautifully against and off of James McAvoy’s David Percival, a character that often encapsulates the mix of Deutschpunk and “fun punk” that could be seen in 1980s Berlin, where the film is set.

Sofia Boutella plays the love interest, Delphine, and gives the spy scene a soft grace and young naivety it needs to show how dangerous the spy game is in the end.

All this blends perfectly in my opinion into heavily a punk-themed film that had me from the opening credits. I do admittedly carry the heart of a punk, and the music accompanied by the spray paint tagging-style opening credits had me buying in.

I will say though, for those who also heard the “John Wick” comparisons and would like to know if that comparison is apropos I don’t see it. It has similarities, but they are small.

“John Wick” has a very stylized type of action to it, especially in regards to gunplay, and it’s a very bloody film. “Atomic Blonde” has some of the same stylized gunplay, but that to me is where the similarities stop. The action is far more realistic in “Atomic Blonde.”

During the heaviest of action scenes, Theron’s character can be seen getting visibly winded and struggling to fight, visibly taking a tole on our heroine who by the end of the film is covered in bruises and clearly in pain — as are her opponents, creating realism in extended fight scenes that you rarely see in movies and a feature I rather enjoyed.

Now, I enjoyed “Atomic Blonde,” but it does have many flaws.

As “Atomic Blonde” has a heavy punk theme, so too will this column, as I am going to use punk rock song choruses to point out the biggest issues I had with “Atomic Blonde.”

“All about that personality crisis you got it while it was hot

But now frustration and heartache is what you got”

— The chorus from “Personality Crisis” by New York Dolls.

“Atomic Blonde” has a personality crisis, carrying a storyline that can be hard to follow and may even take two viewings to get straight. It never decides what kind of film it wants to be.

This is where “John Wick” wins, and why it is a better action movie. Simplicity. You killed my dog, I kill you. Simple.

Spy movie or action movie — what do you want to be “Atomic Blonde?” If it’s a spy movie, concentrate on the spy element and a tricky storyline. If action, concentrate on the action.

“Death or glory becomes just another story.”

— The chorus from “Death or Glory” by The Clash.

Death or glory should be the mantra for any action movie. The best action stars are willing to die for their cause, whatever it may be.

Maybe a better action mantra is from Agent Orange’s “Bloodstains”:

“Blood stains, speed kills

Fast cars, cheap thrills”

As far as the action in “Atomic Blonde” goes, Theron’s Broughton feels disinterested and is the type of fish out of water character who does not belong or want to be there, like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” except not nearly as good.

The character’s disinterest made me disinterested, leaving me asking the same things the Buzzcocks did, “What do I get?”

I was entertained and I think that is an appropriate level of expectation. “Atomic Blonde” does not have explosive action, but it does have action. It does not have a mind-blowing storyline, but it is a decent story.

“Don’t need a cure, Need a final Solution.”

— The chorus from “Final Solution” by Pere Ubu.

“Atomic Blonde” doesn’t just need a cure. It may need a solution to its problems, a solution they could have found in the words of its own source material.

“I don’t care how you get it, who you upset, or where it takes you. Bring it home.”

“Atomic Blonde” may be a decent movie, with two incredible actors in Theron and McAvoy, but it just misses the “destroy what’s destroying” you punk vibe the backdrop of the film casts.

The action was realistic, the story was convoluted but still good, the setting of Berlin in 1989 was fantastic, but In the end, they didn’t bring it home.


Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the Graphics Department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com

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