Nov 28, 2018
Welcome back to the podcast. This will be the second of two episodes today as we’re working to get caught up from the fire. I’ll be continuing my story from the wildfire evacuation in a minute, but if you haven’t heard the earlier segments, hit pause, then go back to my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314) for the first segment, then listen every episode after that for another installment. Let me know you’re listening by sharing this episode with #WelcomeBackOMP.
Last segment, we had woken up the day after we had returned, to a big family breakfast, then a movie and a nap. I woke up to learn that we would be watching our neighbors’ kids while their parents attended a memorial service. Can you imagine, in the midst of all of this? Of course that wouldn’t be a problem, at least not one a pizza delivery couldn’t fix. I was kinda surprised they were delivering again to our neighborhood, but I bet we weren’t the only family without food on hand. My daughter and our neighbors hung out while the adults worked on putting the house back together. I actually was able to get my office and recording area all set back up, but there was no way to record with all the laughter downstairs. Laughter. Things were definitely getting back to normal.
You know who I want to thank the most? Amy Dobzynski, on Twitter @BriteWhen, whom with a little deductive reasoning you may be able to determine is my spouse, aka One Movie Spouse, who as usual, helped spread the word when these podcasts kept coming back out. She’s normally busy as a teacher, but maybe I can convince her to do a review of one of the billion holiday movies available this year. Thanks for your support during the relaunch, and for all the support since day one. You’re my Atomic Brunette!
Today’s movie is “Atomic Blonde” (2017), the Focus Features film directed by David Leitch and written for the screen by Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel “The Coldest City” written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart. The film follows Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), an MI6 agent for the British sent to Berlin in 1989, just days before the Berlin Wall would fall. She must seek out David Percival (James McAvoy), an underground western goods and information seller. Very quickly, Lorraine learns she cannot trust anyone, as agents and actors attack her from all sides, even her own.
Fight choreography has advanced so much since the days of relying on stuntmen and guns and explosions for action films, at least in the United States. Asian cinema has always done fight choreography right, even if they had to adapt to the limitations of film speed. I grew up watching the usual mainstream action films in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and I can remember the first time someone had shown me a Jackie Chan film with some incredible anything goes choreography. It’s only gotten better and better, and in some film scenes, more brutal and violent, but has really accelerated lately. “John Wick”, “Mission: Impossible”, and “The Fast & The Furious” have all kept elevating the game, so much so that I think other films, particularly independent features, now receive unfair comparisons, especially from those fans who fancy themselves instant experts.
“Atomic Blonde” is not a “John Wick” clone, at least not unless you are willing to say that every solo-driven action film is a similar clone. I heard a lot of that talk when this film was in theaters last year, and I wished I had had the opportunity to counteract some of it then. If anything, the difference between “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde” is that the former exists in some stylish, almost comic book movie universe, and the latter exists during a very poignant and relevant time and location in the world. “Atomic Blonde” doubles down on that with period-perfect costumes, locations, and especially, the music, all throwbacks to music I heard growing up, but never understanding its weird juxtaposition against world events at the time. Most of us grow up just hearing the music, but this film made me realize that this is far from being “just a graphic novel film”, even if it is that as well.
I loved the storytelling style, enjoying the mission debriefing format, and especially the way it opened up possibilities for an espionage story. The action is incredible, from start to finish, and incredibly brutal. Charlize Theron sells every ounce and second of her character, no matter the situation. A lot was given away in the trailers leading up to its release, which may have helped drive some folks to the theaters, but also ruined a lot of awesome scenes by waiting to see the trailer segments. Leitch does a great job with bringing everything together, with bold colors in costumes and sets, and lots of neon. Stylish, exciting, engaging, and remarkable.
“Atomic Blonde” (2017) is one of the best action films, and one of the best spy films that I’ve ever seen. Charlize Theron is incredible, and I really hope they consider making more films with her character, especially if they can bring this level of composition. Action film fans, especially folks who love the latest gun-fu choreography, should definitely check out this film, then rock out to the soundtrack afterwards, if you’re of a certain age.
Rotten Tomatoes: 78% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
One Movie Punch: 9.2/10
“Atomic Blonde” (2017) is rated R and is currently streaming on HBO.