By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
When I heard stuntmen turned action directors extraordinaire David Leitch and Chad Stahelski were not going to team up again on John Wick 2, I was both a bit worried and a bit intrigued to see what each brought to the creative alchemy of that film.
Which one came up with all the dog killing?
Atomic Blonde stars Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent tasked with going to Berlin and finding a watch containing a master list of agents and their histories that could disturb the delicate balance on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
One review I read posited that Stahelski brought the gloriously weird world-building to John Wick, and Leitch brought the neon-tinged cool. Stahelski’s work on the John Wick 2 and this film certainly bear that out, although it’s clear both of them can direct the hell out of an action sequence.
Atomic Blonde is nothing if not neon-tinged cool and full of full-stop spectacular action. Every frame of this film positively drips with late-80s style, from the sharp costuming and hair & makeup work to Jonathan Sela’s light, dark, and yes, neon-obsessed cinematography to the choice period pop cuts delivered in English and German and always rising to perfect earworm volume when some badass shit is about to happen.
Every five minutes, give or take.
In regards to the latter, I also read a comment to the effect of “John Wick vs Lorraine Broughton? She would murder him!” I… might have to agree with this assessment. Theron absolutely owns this role, which is even more physical and all-around terrifyingly convincing than what she did in Mad Max: Fury Road. She’s fearless, taking as good as she gives and owning the screen every second she’s on it. Despite the awesome setting, the filmmaking verve, James McAvoy’s delightfully oily turn, or Sofia Boutella’s all-around hotness, this is straight up the Charlize Theron show.
The framing device isn’t terribly necessary and contributes to the plot being somewhat less than engaging- John Le Carre this ain’t. Overall, Atomic Blonde suffers somewhat from Leitch always leaning style over substance, but man, what style!
Cheers to that.
I hated to see Leitch & Stahelski separate, but if it means we get movies like Atomic Blonde and John Wick 2 every year… I’m in.
Atomic Blonde (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for ice baths
Take a Drink: for watches
Take a Drink: whenever the music rises and you know some ass-kicking is imminent
Take a Drink: for Stoli straight up
Do a Shot: Double cross!