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MOVIE REVIEW: "Atomic Blonde"

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MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) in "Atomic Blonde".
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The annotation of war brings forth subjects of bloodshed and opposition, but the Cold War was an anomaly of American history: fewer bullets, more impatience. It encompassed several decades after World War II of the United States and Soviet countries experiencing cultural, political and sociological anxiety. East and West Berlin were divided, along with East Germany, for almost three decades; both physically with the Berlin Wall and thus ideologically with communism and democracy separated.

1989 was the eve of the Berlin Wall’s fall and an eventual readjustment of superpower alliances. A tough time if there ever was one for a foreign double agent to bypass the country’s current heavy restrictions. MI6’s Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) gets dropped into the unrest of Berlin streets to find the renegade group that killed a fellow undercover agent / ex-lover. Said group also has a list of other undercover agents that MI6 investigator Eric Gray (Toby Jones) says could expand the Cold War for four more decades. Broughton is immediately made when she lands in Berlin and collaborates with local station chief David Percival (James McAvoy, rocking the meanest buzz cut and beard combo) to track down and destroy the list that has the underground ring of Berlin miscreants running amok.

Off the heels of co-helming 2014’s John Wick, director David Leitch brings the Wick style of meticulously rough and authentic action sequences to the late 80s. Switch the vengeful hitman for a soft-spoken British spy and have enough needle drops of 80s synth-pop to provide a constant aura of confident supremacy with vulnerability not seen in American action films currently.

Theron contracts tranquility in her various ice baths and ice-filled vodka shots — both to dull the pain of being her. Her stillness in a frigid bath to emerge naked, both physically and morally, usually isn’t how Americans see action stars. She maneuvers her actions in a subtle, yet confident manner; that of a assassin looking to do their business and leave the scene for fear of notoriety. She’s an electric burst of nuanced resilience that never falters for two straight hours.

The screenplay never clumsily uses her femininity has an obvious crutch or a way for nameless enemies to talk shit on her for it (besides one small line). Her bisexuality is used for an incredibly provocative and sexy scene that could come of as male gaze, but the director cuts before the audience sees too much; almost shaking his finger like “it ain’t that type of movie.”

John Wick: Chapter 2 had a stunning third act shootout with the backdrop of neon flashes and endless mirrors. Atomic Blonde extends those visuals for two full hours. In an early scene when Percival tries to sneak up on Broughton in her room, she breaks a vodka bottle over his head, throws him on the bed and questions him. Her bleach blonde hair bounces from a dark blue wall with pink neon on her right and baby blue neon on her left with bright white cutting through the scene. It’s one of the most arresting visual shots I’ve seen all year.

The film assaults its way from a very good action film to an excellent one with hall-of-fame level action scenes including a downright instant classic scene in a stairwell. This sequence needs to be praised now and forever because it is utterly phenomenal. It spans nearly ten minutes, several floors and rooms — sans scene cutting or background music. It’s something that I’ll continue to revisit this film specifically for and after repeat viewings already, it’s still intense and endlessly impressive and entertaining.

It’s an action sequence that Americans haven’t experienced in years and the closest is a few parts from either John Wick films. But this display of choreography and realism puts anything the human cheat code John Wick ever attempted out of here. Nothing is ever at stakes in John Wick  films. He’s the Luke Cage of action stars. Fun to watch, but he’s invincible and his combat is mainly gun-based. No doubt the director watched the Raid films on loop for inspiration of this scene and the other long-form action splices sprinkled throughout.

It’s the penultimate scene, but embodies everything that’s great about the overall experience. Action that has humanistic elements. Theron’s character isn’t a martial arts master or a kill-shot every time. She receives multiple blows that would put most out of commission and on-the-ropes. Her body is one of nuclear strength of endurance and persistence, and it’s a fascinating to observe her every calculated move.

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Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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