By: Omair Alavi
What would you get if you mix the villain of the last Fast and The Furious flick with John Wick? The result is Atomic Blonde where Charlize Theron is ‘the’ man who takes down Germans as if they were ants in her backyard. The film would have fared even better at the box office had the plot been a little easy to understand for the audience; despite all the firepower and kicking, in the end, the audience left the cinema confused which isn’t good for a film that banks purely on action!
The United States and the Soviet Union are at war in the late 80s – spies from both sides are still fighting for supremacy when suddenly, the Americans decide to send their best man for the job. That ‘man’ is Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) whose ‘boyfriend’ was the person killed for a deadly ‘list of agents’. Along with MI6’s Station Chief David Percival (James McAvoy) the two try to retrieve the list but in the process, Lorraine manages to make Berlin her home ground where she bats for the good guys and has the punches, kicks and other weapons of her arsenal reserved for those who were helping the other team.
The film belongs to Theron from the moment she enters it; for the next 110 minutes, she is seen making martial arts moves like never before. There is a sequence where she enters a building and comes out of it after fighting a dozen men with both guns and fists – it is so impressively choreographed that you will not be able to switch your glance away from the screen. Since the film is set in the late 80s, most of the action revolves around the Berlin Wall but that doesn’t stop Theron’s character from going all Rambo. She manages to find the mole in her organization and collect the list in the classic 1980s way!
The film also owes its uniqueness to director David Leitch who co-directed a similarly themed John Wick a few years back with Chad Stahelski (who made the second film in the franchise by himself). The sequences are well written and executed and not even a lamppost seems out of place. This is how an action film should be made in the modern era!
James McAvoy had a meaty role this time around (unlike Wanted) but he played second fiddle throughout the film, much to the annoyance of his fans. Also, instead of the plot thickening, it is the director who loses his grip over the narrative. Too many elements were added to the plot for no reason and could have been avoided such as the French operative, the KGB enforcer and the constant back and forth debriefing session. Even the conclusion was bizarre as after finding the mole, not much was left to be said and done. The chaos of Berlin that was critical to the first part was missing from the second while too many characters were there for no reason.
Verdict – 2.5/5
Based on Antony Johnston’s graphic novel ‘The Coldest City,’ Atomic Blonde had all the ingredients of being a successful franchise and it still can be one. However, the director will have to lessen the plot devices in the next one so that people can watch the film, relax and think about watching the next one. Right now, people are watching it just because it has Charlize Theron making mincemeat out of the Germans and getting away with it. A simpler plot would have helped the film and made it a smashing hit unlike the hit and miss it turned out to be.