This is interesting. Director David Leitch is a former stuntman and an uncredited Director on the film John Wick. I don’t quite know why a director would be uncredited though. Leitch is also directing the upcoming Deadpool 2. Is Atomic Blonde able to capture what made the John Wick films work?
It’s near the end of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall still separates the city of Berlin in two. We meet our heroine Lorraine (Charlize Theron) as she’s sent to Berlin to help find and extract a list of undercover agents whose lives will be in jeopardy in the list gets out. She connects with an English operative (James McAvoy) and a French operative (Sofia Boutella) along the way. We also have John Goodman, Toby Jones, and Eddie Marsan.
Like John Wick, this movie has style and the world that we get to visit isn’t made up this time, but rather we’re peeking into history, into an early 1980s Germany. The colors are vibrant, the world is alive. It feels incredibly authentic, though I’ve never been, which is quite a testament.
The music is like a character itself here, constantly in the background. Some of it is highly recognizable, pop tunes of the 1980s. Other songs are German trance and electronic music, some even remixes and covers of other 80s songs, but in German instead. Always though the music is the heartbeat of this film.
The cast is perfectly laid out, including a standout performance from McAvoy, who you’re never quite sure if you can trust or not. Theron is a badass as expected but it’s not surprising following her performance in Mad Max: Fury Road.
You may go to this movie and want some standout fight sequences and it’s really hit or miss (pun intended). The best fight scenes are all in the second half, including a stairwell fight scene that will definitely be a contender for my Best Fight award this year. However the first half is full of too-brief fight scenes and moments we’ve already seen in the trailers.
What doesn’t work?
Like I mentioned, a lot is given away in the trailers, including some of the best stunt and fight work. If you haven’t seen the trailers, I’d recommend not seeing them.
The biggest problem with this movie is the pacing. It’s not structured in a typical three-act structure, as I consider the movie’s climax to be closer to the halfway point of the movie. It’s a tad too long and tons of filler, resulting in a bit of a slow burn. The fights are great, sure, but the journey from fight to fight can be a bit tedious, especially in the first half which is full of tons of exposition. The movie also suffers from Lord of the Rings disease, having eight too many endings, many of which were unnecessary. When the movie finally does end, you’re left with a bit of a bad taste in your mouth.
Atomic Blonde is like a rough draft. Plenty of cool moments but no one seemed to tell them that the movie was too long and a bit slow. Plenty could have been trimmed. The world we inhabit here is fascinating and colorful and the music is great, but it just takes too long to get from moment to moment. The movie as a whole feels like it drags, especially when you’re expecting the movie to end and it just keeps going. John Wick was a pleasant surprise but I can’t say the same for Atomic Blonde. Worth seeing? Sure! But it’s not a no-brainer, so take this recommendation lightly.