Cinematic Releases: Atomic Blonde (2017) - Reviewed

Being alive during a renaissance of the action film is truly a blessing, and former stuntman David Leitch's (John Wick, Deadpool 2) Atomic Blonde continues his minimalistic fury, presenting a barely coherent spy thriller in a neon soaked 1989 Berlin that drips with so much cool, there's almost not enough time to care about anything other than the extreme ass-kickings that Charlize Theron dispenses. 

Theron is a MI-6 operative deployed to Berlin during the last days of the wall in order to locate a list with the names of undercover spies. That's the entire premise. Yet another tired McGuffin involving a secret list, but thankfully, Leitch's bare fisted manifesto more than compensates with thrilling camerawork, a grungy '80s soundtrack, and thrilling fight choreography that has become his calling card. Charlize Theron plunges into her role with the perfect combination of sexually charged fatale and brutally efficient killer. Her chemistry with costar James McAvoy is never given a chance to blossom, but she does the best with what she has during the film's stumbling first act. The payoff requires patience to allow the pieces to be placed on the board in order to witness the pure glory of Theron violently upending the table. 

Jonathan Sela's cinematography is alive, filled with lethal alacrity and uncharacteristic proficiency. The centerpiece is a thrilling five minute long take that dominates the climax and witnessing it in the cinema overshadows the plethora of flaws that plague Atomic Blonde throughout. Much like with Wick, Leitch's world is a graveyard of predestined, unimportant victims who loom in a crimson orbit around the titular assassin. The script checks off various boxes, including treachery, tradecraft, and a refreshingly different love angle in order to deliver its primed payload of violence to its target: The viewer. Getting there will be a chore, as the film runs close to two hours, but once the train arrives, all is forgiven as Theron uses her environment, complete with empty pistols, bottles, and vehicles as means to dispatch the villains. 

Daniel Bernhardt deserves a mention. His work in John Wick, Logan, and Catching Fire combine to present another incarnation of a more than capable foil for the title character and as always, his stellar stunt work sets up the best sequences of the film. This is a perfect companion piece to John Wick 2, building off of Anthony Johnston and Sam Hart's graphic novel to transport a high concept action film to the dangerous and destitute streets of war torn Berlin. Bright reds and blues flood the optics, building on neon compositions from headier predecessors to masque the simplicity in a tightly wound package of controlled chaos. 
I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum.

Coming soon to theaters, Atomic Blonde is an outstanding action experience that delivers exactly what it promises and, upon its overlong conclusion manages to tie everything up in a manner that will have the viewer retracing their steps along Cheron's bloody waltz through the streets of a Berlin out of time. This is pure adrenaline and a ferocious example of well-crafted mayhem that Leitch's astute command allows to mature under the spotlights of a world undone by secrecy. Seeing this in the cinema is essential for any fans of action films looking for some truly memorable sequences inside a slick composition of lighting, stunt work, and combat focused storytelling.

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-Kyle Jonathan