Tuesday, August 22, 2017


THE ATOMIC BLONDE is like if Guy Rithie made a John le Carre film. Let’s be clear: the only reason to see this movie is to watch Charlize Theron kick more ass than Wonder Woman. You can’t be a hot actress these days without doing one of these action flicks. Scarlett Johansson is quite adept at it. Keira Knightley has beaten the shit out of her share of guys.

If only they did this back in the golden age of Hollywood. I would love to see Audrey Hepburn flipping 300 pound guys over her shoulder, taking out thirty Ninjas with just her purse, barrel-rolling out of cars, and shooting seventeen bad guys in the face with a semi-automatic while still looking fetching in her sun hat. The only problem would be the soundtrack. Whereas THE ATOMIC BLONDE had a rocking soundtrack of ‘80s hits; watching Audrey pummel twenty body builder/border patrol officers to the strains of Jerome Kern wouldn’t have the same effect.

The plot of ATOMIC BLONDE was confusing. Not only did I zone out on who everybody was, but I couldn’t keep straight when Charlize was in East or West Berlin. Screenplay by Kurt Johnstad. In the graphic novel from whence this came you could always flip back a page or two. But again, that’s not why you see this movie.

The summer of 2017 is clearly the summer of stylish action movies. BABY DRIVER and now ATOMIC BLONDE. They’re both sheer adrenaline rushes with super-slick camera work, well-choreographed action sequences, and a soundtrack right off the K-TEL GREATEST HITS collection.

ATOMIC director David Leitch is clearly going for a commercial hit. There’s no pretense that this is a sophisticated espionage film. Academy members -- don’t expect “for your consideration” screeners of this one. When cars aren’t crashing and bones aren’t crushing, Charlize is dressing in some outfit more suited for the dominatrix in EATING RAOUL and taking off her clothes entirely. There’s a very hot girl-on-girl scene with Charlize and the equally naked Sofia Boutella. (Now I’m thinking back again to the golden age – Audrey and Natalie Wood???  A cinephile can dream.)

THE ATOMIC BLONDE is a romp. Highly recommended for anyone who has road rage or can’t watch porno at work. There are also a couple of laughs in it. It’s James Bond with heels and all the wigs left over from THE AMERICANS. The only thing more fun would be THE ATOMIC BRUNETTE with Audrey Hepburn.


Jim S said...

I don't know Ken, I always thought "Moon River" was a killer song.

Jim S

John H said...

Thanks for this review. Atomic Blonde is exceptionally well made. Confusing at times yes, but beautifully shot and very entertaining. Very few films contain action scenes as exhilarating as this movie.

Peter said...

I loved this and have seen it twice! I'm glad you enjoyed it, Ken!

Charlize Theron is indeed super hot in this. The extended fight sequence in the stairwell is easily one of the best action scenes ever put on film. And what a miracle to see an action film in which you can actually SEE what's going on and shots last longer than 2 seconds. I know I'm not alone in hating hyperactive editing and shakey cam in which you have absolutely no idea who's shooting who.

The only bum note for me was James McAvoy. His character was just plain annoying.

As a Londoner, I enjoyed Theron's very sexy English accent, especially when she calls another character "cocksucker".

I hope we get a sequel!

Anonymous said...

Are you sure you don't mean crime/action director Guy Rithie not Michael Ritchie? Anyway, good review. Sounds like an interesting movie to check out,

Eric said...

I think you meant Guy Richie. Michael Ritchie directed "The Candidate", "Fletch" and the original "Bad News Bears". Pretty sure that wasn't who you had in mind.

Ryan said...

Ken - Probably not the best forum - but would you be able to post a copy of an 'outline' as well as the associated script from something you wrote? I've looked everywhere for scripts in outline form and so far, no luck.


Unknown said...

Just saw it over the weekend. Enjoyable escape romp, although I think I might get lung cancer from all the smoking in the movie.
I think they will try to make this a series ala James Bond, but what was different, and nice, is the "reality" of the fighting results. You never see Bond, Borne, Flint or Matt Helm with bruises or black eyes after the fights. Thanks to the nudity, you see the results here. Confusing about the movie, when did she have time to buy all those sexy clothes and shoes?

Steve Lanzi (formerly known as qdpsteve) said...

I have a young niece who is blonde, and who I suspect will love this movie. (She and her dad love action flicks and see practically every single one that come out, either in the theater or via Netflix.) Thanks for the great review Ken.

PS, I bet someday someone will be able to re-cut 30 seconds' worth of AB's footage into a killer hosiery commercial... ;-)

Max said...

Awwwwwwwww no Dunkirk yet :(

Joseph said...

Ryan- John August, a film and television writer, has a few of the outlines from his films and tv shows at https://johnaugust.com/library

Jahn Ghalt said...

I would love to see Audrey Hepburn flipping 300 pound guys over her shoulder

Not me. That particular lovely hasn't the body type for it - not that the current A-list-lovely's do, either.

The very title - ATOMIC BLOND - a big yawn.

B Smith said...

One thing that niggled - if this really was set in 1989 (and in Germany, no less), the audience would, as one, have been exclaiming "Oh my god, what are they wearing??!! Look at that hair!!" and similar cries. Instead Ms Theron and co seem kitted out in clobber and coiffure than looks quite mod and stylish for 2017 instead.

And I wondered whether it was just me that thought the violence was over the top, but during that prolonged fight scene that starts on the stairs and ends inside an apartment, most of the rest of the audience were either groaning or laughing at how ludicrously prolonged it was.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Jahn Ghalt: A lot of modern actresses seem to work out a lot - it's how they stay thin. But I agree, it would be uncomfortable watching Audrey Hepburn flipping those big guys. You'd always be afraid she was going to break one of those skinny bones. They'd have had a hard time finding a stand-in the right size who could do it safely, too.


Kosmo13 said...

>>(Now I’m thinking back again to the golden age – Audrey and Natalie Wood??? A cinephile can dream.)

Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine performing such a scene in "The Children's Hour" would have made the film even more... dramatically powerful.

MikeN said...

Anne Hathaway said the rule is you get naked, you get nominated. The whole point of giving out those Oscars is to encourage other actresses.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Agree 100%. Saw Atomic with an erudite, film-snob friend. End of the movie he leans over says, "I liked it."

I liked it a lot, but I admit to dizzying confusion. Didn't all the male characters look alike?

Even though any one of the punches she took would probably have killed a woman with any hair color, Charlize Theron was definitely fun to watch beat the crap out of every tough guy she met. Her prowess was reminiscent of the fetching Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Hey, Two Atomic Blonds? I'd pay to see that.

Considering today's issues, there's something about an Atomic Blond that gives me hope.

VP81955 said...

In addition to being a talented actress, Charlize Theron is a strapping beauty, imposing and Amazonian. I'd have loved to have seen the early '60s Julie Newmar in something like this, although her physicality was more lithe, indicative of her dance background.

And as for a classic-era dream girl-on-girl, how about Carole Lombard, a talented athlete (for proof, watch her as a college track star in the 1928 Mack Sennett two-reeler "Run, Girl, Run") with Marlene Dietrich? When they were at Paramount in the early '30s, Dietrich -- well-known for her bedroom trysts from both sides of the plate -- tried to add Carole to her conquests, but Lombard wasn't interested.

Barry Traylor said...

I'm with you Ken, as I'll watch anything Charlize Theron is in.

Pat Reeder said...

Haven't seen it, but I did see an amusing Steven Crowder video on YouTube inspired by it. Crowder apparently has some background in martial arts, and he's tired of movies showing 110-pound women with no super powers beating up five 300-pound men at once. So he had his male producer try to attack him, recreating some of the scenes from the movie to show how they defy the laws of physics. For the record, it turns out you can't send someone flying backward by kicking them from a standing position right in front of them; holding someone at bay by standing on one foot with your other foot on their throat can be countered by simply grabbing your foot and pushing you over backwards; and bashing someone with a high heel shoe doesn't kill or disable them. It does leave scabs and bruises, but it's mostly just really annoying.

Anonymous said...

One of the first things I liked about the movie, Atomic Blonde, is the cinematic effects. It was shot using a blue hue, which reminded me of the "cold war" in which the movie showed nicely. I also enjoyed the actors ability to completely hold me hostage because I "believed them" which does not happen so often these days in movies I have seen. The whole concept from beginning to end was a suspenseful spy thriller, as I never really knew how it was going to end. Yes, there was a lot of martial arts and killing, but the point was not that at all. The point was how the characters played the parts so well as spies and how they got through it all. It made me wonder after the movie just how spies get through life, how they deal with a life as a spy and how the public really never knows who dies and who lives just to be a spy. Also how perhaps they are used by governments to meet their own ends lies in question to me.