Atomic Blonde (Cinema Review)

15 – 115mins – 2017



Michael Jackson’s golden era, the Star Wars sequels, Red Dwarf‘s early years, Tetris… and me. The 1980s produced some of my all-time favourite things. Yet new spy thriller Atomic Blonde is proof that even the most nostalgic can have too much of a good thing.

Set in 1989 before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it is a love letter to the neon decade, featuring a predictable ‘best of’ soundtrack, the most funky lighting outside of a discotheque and a smattering of pop culture references (“David Hasselhoff has just turned up…”) which provide a backdrop to this action-heavy adaptation of 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City.

And it is sooooo quintessentially 80s it is damn near oppressive. Convoluting the hearty retro mix is a grey ‘n’ gritty Soviet Union landscape of crumbling architecture, graffiti-covered buildings and dodgy backhand street deals which seriously made me doubt my affection for the decade which brought us MC Hammer and his parachute pants.

Featuring KGB agents, high level MI-6 field agents, Stasi defectors and a horde of double-agents, sometimes Atomic Blonde‘s “List”-smuggling plot is hard to keep track of, particularly when loyalties are frequently switched and characters are all too often assassinated or thwacked out of action. The framing technique of Lorraine Broughton’s (Charlize Theron) debriefing by her superior (Toby Tale of Tales Jones) and a visitor from the CIA (John Kong: Skull Island Goodman) helps clarity to a degree, but can’t hide the grim atmosphere which finds glee in an over-abundance of violence.

“Joan Wick” may sound like a flippant and frivolous comparison-cum-review, but it is bloody accurate, and John Wick co-director David Leitch’s first solo helming credit finds him once more losing himself in an orgy of gunshots and body blows. Action junkies will get a kick out of the blistering fight choreography, but I quickly lost interest whenever the extensive action became gratuitous and bombastic. For this reason Atomic Blonde‘s 4-star production is hampered by faltering 2-star enjoyment, levelling out at a middle-of-the-road final count.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

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