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ATOMIC BLONDE is below average, so does that mean “Deadpool 2” is in trouble?…

Posted on August 8th, 2017
Posted on August 8th, 2017

by Coop Cooper

In 1989 right before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the British secret service tasks agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to secure a list of the names of Soviet double agents in East Berlin from a KGB turncoat named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan). Her maverick company contact in West Berlin, Percival (James McAvoy), seems to have his own agenda and she finds reason to suspect her own people of double crossing her. When the entire operation goes south, she suspects she has become expendable and must discover the truth before assassins on both sides track her down.

Based off of the graphic novel “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, “Atomic Blonde” attempts to ride the comic book film wave which has been dominating the box office for the last decade. 80’s pop music permeates the soundtrack while muted blue colors represent the coldness of the settings and the characters, especially Theron who beats everyone she comes across to a bloody pulp. Every moment in this film screams ‘cliché’, from the look, to the sound, to the action. I have an affinity for action films with style, but I’ve seen this particular style all too often.

Theron’s performance is too dry to pull off John Wick, but it lands about on par with 007 whom she tries her best to emulate. She is supposed to be stealthy and undercover, yet she blows it constantly and has to fight her way out of nearly every scene. It has a lot in common with “Salt” (2010) which isn’t any better, but it does go for a twist at the end which seems arbitrary and overly complicated.

The rest of the cast are stuck with characters who are dumb and easily manipulated. James McAvoy attempted to chew up the screen as the swaggering Percival, but the audience is never given a chance to like him. Toby Jones and John Goodman show up as MI:6 and CIA directors respectively who act like they have no idea what is going on. Sophia Boutella of the recent “The Mummy” remake and “Kingsman: The Secret Service” pops up as Theron’s love interest, but never gets to prove herself as a useful character. I still maintain that Boutella has plenty of chemistry and talent to work among Hollywood’s A-list so I won’t hold this film (or “The Mummy”) against her.

The story unfolds from the perspective of a ‘unreliable narrator’. This is a literary/cinematic device that makes the audience question everything they have witnessed by the end of the story (i.e. “The Usual Suspects”). This device only works under the most skillful writers and filmmakers. Between the over-the-top action scenes and Theron’s monotone delivery, following the intrigue plot “Atomic Blonde” becomes too much of a chore to care about who is double crossing who and discovering the truth about what really happened. When the lead actress is karate-chopping everyone she comes across, the ‘whodunnit’ aspect of the film feels like an irrelevant distraction.

One of the interesting aspects of “Atomic Blonde” is the director, David Leitch, who has a long resume as a Hollywood stuntman and action coordinator. This is no surprise as the action scenes are meticulously staged and executed, even if they lack substance. Leitch is currently directing “Deadpool 2” and while that bodes well for the action scenes in that much anticipated sequel, we may have to rely on Ryan Reynold’s comedic performance if Leitch can’t handle the clever bits and meta storytelling which made the first “Deadpool” so much fun.

The plot is too thin to be a James Bond movie and the action isn’t original enough to be the next “John Wick”. With the exception of one well-choreographed, long-take fight scene about an hour into it, there isn’t enough to like here. Charlize has already proven her acting chops and her ability to pull off hard, physical action. This feels more like she took this role to challenge her versatility rather than a bid to star in a great movie.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

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Northern Mississippi 1932:
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OFFICIAL SELECTION:
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My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

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