By Ian Morton
While Atomic Blonde certainly has the building blocks for a successful action/thriller, a series of plot issues paired with un-relatable characters holds it back from sparring with the better entries in the genre.
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, the plot follows Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) recalling her investigation into the murder of a fellow agent on the streets of Berlin. After soon discovering that the death is linked to a docket of top secret information, Broughton is forced to team up with unconventional undercover agent David Percival (James McAvoy) to track down the missing information.
Fresh from his breakthrough feature, director David Leitch once again dives head first into the action genre. Like his previous effort John Wick, Atomic Blonde certainly delivers when it comes to action and visuals but unlike the former, it does struggle when it comes to the plot.
Striking visuals and a blaring 80’s soundtrack set the tone early, whilst the glory of a drained colour pallet certainly frame this as one of the better looking films of the year. Shimmering shades of grey mixed with mottled streaks of fluorescent colour embody the underground vibe Leitch is trying to create while the fight scenes come to life with vibrant reds and purple bruises. The result is a rough round the edges approach that will undoubtedly offer a treat for the eyes.
As with most action films however, it’s not until you start to drill into plot that you soon realize there’s no oil at its heart. Running what feels like roughly 25 minutes too long, the story ultimately stretches itself too far as a simple central plot gets lost among attempted character development. Although nearly every film uses similar techniques, the actual events that take place do little to add to the story, rarely giving much to empathize with and eventually distracting you from what’s going on.
Although there are issues with the plot, Leitch does have one thing that sets him apart from most else – he can film an incredible fight scene. Brutally destructive and violently compelling, each battle is brought to life with such physicality that even the audience can feel it. Impressive editing, close up camera work and bone crunching sound design all come together to create some of the most intense fisticuffs caught on tape, showing that the director’s experience as a stunt-man certainly pays off.
Aside from an uncomfortably frustrating accent and ill-devised sub plots, Charlize Theron does prove to be the right choice for the lead. More a throwback to some of her earlier roles, the straight cut approach definitely plays to her strengths with the ever impressive stunt work wrapping things up nicely. James McAvoy is on point as agent Percival but in honesty, it’s not a lot different to similar roles played before. While there may be not be any notable performances overall, there is just enough entertain you for throughout the run time.
With such a buzz surrounding the film over the past few months, it’s hard not to feel a little disappointed. With the final product not quite delivering on its hefty promise, it feels like a classic example of a simple storyteller trying to over complicate what he does best. With the veil of John Wick elevating Leitch to new heights, Atomic Blonde should have been much more basic and ultimately, more fun! 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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