Consistency has always been a litmus test as to whether a film passes or fails on my terms. Take the latest graphic novel/comic book adaptation Atomic Blonde, for instance. Here is a film where in one scene a character gets stabbed in the head and yet there’s hardly a drop of blood in sight. A little farther down the line a character is dispatched with a shard of glass in the neck and the blood flows freely. I kept wondering to myself if this was just a lapse in continuity or if it was just lazy filmmaking. If pressed I’d say it falls into the latter camp.
Charlize Theron is the titular character of the film, the Atomic Blonde. In the film she goes by the moniker of Lorraine Broughton. The statuesque and immaculately chiseled Theron is perfectly cast in the role and, despite being at an age when most actresses have long ago shed their sex symbol status courtesy of Hollywood’s unbalanced standards and practices, she’s sure to catch the eye of male audience members half her age. She gives it her all and Theron, who also gets a producer credit, certainly can’t be faulted for not doing the best with the material she’s been given. Unfortunately, when saddled with such a weak script there’s only so much onscreen talent can do. Therein lies the rub.
The film opens with a title card telling us that the setting is November 1989, just after the fall of the Berlin wall. Lorraine, an MI6 spy, is all battered and bruised. Presently, she’s being interrogated by her boss (Toby Jones) and a CIA Chief (John Goodman) regarding a recently completed mission to recover a dossier containing the names of British agents that the Russians are all too eager to get their hands on (in the movies, aren’t they always?). The story is related in flashback. We see how Lorraine beat and pummeled her way to locating and recovering the secret list, along the way partnering with another agent (James McAvoy, chewing scenery much as he did in his dreadful turn in the film Split, from earlier this year) in her quest.
One thing the film has going for it comes courtesy of director David Leitch, a former stuntman turned director who was also responsible for the monotonous but well orchestrated John Wick films. Leitch’s penchant for successfully staging action scenes that, for the most part, look realistic is an asset. Unfortunately, all the great action scenes in the world can’t compensate for a script that feels like a rejected James Bond film penned during the Reagan era. This one has gloss to spare but, unfortunately, that’s about all it has going for it.
Atomic Blonde is playing at AMC Hickory.
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