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All of the trailers for Atomic Blonde have really marketed this as a female John Wick. With David Leitch, the co-director from the first John Wick, a super blonde Charlize Theron wearing ridiculously uncomfortable outfits performing flawless fight choreography against high octane background music. If the fight scenes are even half as good as John Wick, I’m sold, and they are. Unfortunately, that all about where all the similarities lie.
Against the backdrop of tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989, MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a list of missing agents. After an awkwardly placed fight scene almost right after she arrives in Berlin, she meets David Percival (James McAvoy), the Berlin station chief who is supposed to help her conduct the investigation. Big surprise, Lorraine suspects David of foul play immediately, and he, in turn, makes her life more difficult while trying to retrieve the package.
Even though this premise sounds simple, it is convoluted in execution. The movie opens with a beat up Lorraine telling her account of what went wrong to two senior agents, which immediately killed any tension of what may or may not happen to the main character. The way Percival’s character is introduced is so suspicious, there is no doubt in the audience’s mind he will probably turn out to be a villain. An integral part of the plot, shown in the trailer, of the missing agent being Lorraine’s lost lover is not thoroughly explained at all. You don’t know their relationship, and at the end, you don’t really know if he received any justice.
The fight scenes, as expected, are fantastic. They are well choreographed, expertly shot, and superbly edited. But at times, they are solely there for style over substance purposes only. For example, in one scene Lorraine pulls her turtleneck above her face in order to beat up two cops. Is she going incognito? Is she protecting her face from knife wounds? Is this the main character’s trademark from the graphic novel that is based on? It’s never explained. Regarding the fight scenes, we spend a lot of time waiting for the next one to happen because the story in between is not very compelling. Lorraine is cool, she’s capable, and she’s smart. But due to the narration throughout the film, there is absolutely no sense of danger with Lorraine. Percival really has no point that to be maybe or maybe not a bad guy who thwarts Lorraine’s plans.
Surprisingly, Atomic Blonde is kind of forgettable. It’s a spy story that you’ve seen many, many times. It has about three gotcha endings that you don’t care about because you don’t care about the characters or the situation. The characters are literally killing people to retrieve this list because whoever has the list in their possession carries all the power, but why? And why is it necessary for Lorraine to recount her whole story if she’s in trouble why not just arrest her.
Atomic Blonde is not a bad movie, but if it didn’t have those fight scenes and great actors, you would forget about it soon after you leave the theater.