Friday, July 28, 2017

Atomic Blonde: Charlize Theron Will Straight Up Murder Your Ass

Charlize Theron is 42 years old. She's been on the Hollywood scene since she was twenty-one. She played minor roles in films until a true leading role in Disney's Mighty Joe Young. From there she was either given or chose very mediocre films like The Astronaut's Wife, Reindeer Games, and The Legend of Bagger Vance. Her first most noteworthy film role, one that also earned her an Oscar, was in 2003's Monster. When she was 30 years old, in 2005, she was given the chance to lead a female-driven action film with Aeon Flux, and as we all know that was a complete disaster. For the next ten years it was a slew of under the radar indies, dramas, Snow White re-imaginings and Seth MacFarlane westerns. Finally, ten years after Aeon Flux... and now at age 40... we got to watch Theron show off just how unbelievably badass she truly is in Mad Max: Fury Road. Most of the time I forget Tom Hardy was even in that movie. Due to the success of that film and the word of mouth of Theron's badassery... at 42 years old... we have Atomic Blonde. Now, I am only highlighting the age thing here for two simple reasons: First, to show that Theron is getting more impressive with each passing year. And second, because had Hollywood actually realized just how impressive she was back when she first started... we could've been getting badass femele-led (or just plain Theron-led) action movies for the past two decades. It's a shame we had to wait as long as we did to be able to rank Theron up there with the rest of the action greats.

So, before we get into Atomic Blonde I feel there is a bit of a disclaimer I should throw out there. Over the past few months I've seen quite a few trailers for the film. The advertising for this movie has made it look like we're about to watch the Theron-equivalent of a John Wick movie. Some sort of plot with a catalyst that leads Theron on a mission to kick as many asses as possible in a two hour time frame. This isn't exactly the case. The story of Atomic Blonde is this: Theron plays Lorraine, a British Intelligence Operative sent to Berlin in order to retrieve a stolen list of all British agents. There, in Berlin, she meets her contact David Percival (James McAvoy), and the two of them do some super-secret crazy spy shit in order to get the list back. The list contains the names of every British operative currently active (including double agents and triple agents and double triple agents, etc.). However, there is a mole working for the KGB, setting Lorraine up, exposing her, and basically causing all sorts of trouble.

Now... here's where this movie and a movie like John Wick differ. John Wick has a very simple plot. Some bad guys killed his dog. He kills them all. That's it. There's the invention of the underground society of assassins and all that, but the plot is very simple. There's really no twists and turns, no mystery to unravel. It's just John murdering anyone connected to the organization of the dude who killed his dog. And he kills everyone. Literally... everyone. Atomic Blonde is different. It is an action movie, but it is more a spy/espionage movie first. A good two-thirds of the movie involve Lorraine tailing leads, finding out information, evading attack, discovering who the mole could be, and the like. It's not until the final third of the movie that almost all of the action you see in the trailers comes forth. But, boy, when it does, watch out. It comes fast and it comes furious (hey, Charlize was in the last Fast and Furious movie... they should do a crossover movie with Mad Max called Fast and Furiosa). The fight sequences and shoot-outs and brawls she gets into are some of the best visually stylized action sequences I've ever seen. If you haven't seen it yet, go check out the YouTube behind-the-scenes video of Charlize training for this film. The director even says that normally in an action film you'll get a couple punches in, then have to cut in order for it to look authentic. Charlize works so hard and is such a badass chick that they were able to do multiple punches and kicks and flips in this film because she was so committed to the film. In fact, there is an action sequence that lasts probably a good twenty minutes of Charlize engaging in hand-to-hand combat with at least ten thugs... and it's one shot. Obviously there is trick photography at work here, but it doesn't take away from the impressiveness of both the choreography or Theron herself.

The one thing that hinders Atomic Blonde, however, is actually its story. Where John Wick knows that it is purely a vehicle for numerous action sequences and gun fights, so it doesn't waste too much time on a story... Atomic Blonde is all about story. This is good because now it's not just hundreds of random henchmen scurrying about waiting to be shot in the face. There's actually reasons behind each of the fights in the film, and this makes it feel a lot more organic. However, the problem with Atomic Blonde's story is that it's kinda weak. There isn't anything super new here that plunges you into this story with really any emotional connection. It's entertaining enough, but it's nothing new. You're here for her. There aren't any twists or turns you didn't already see coming from the beginning, there isn't anything new introduced into a standard spy movie that you haven't really seen before... except her. Theron drives this movie with full force. And if it wasn't for her and the perfectly executed fight sequences, this movie would be totally forgettable. Even an actor as strong as McAvoy just falls by the wayside under Theron's thuderous performance. This is a movie where you don't go for the story. You don't go for the action. You go to see Charlize in full force kicking ass and taking names.

The reason I'm comparing it so heavily to John Wick is that stylistically it's very similar. The action is similar, the look and feel of the movie are similar as well. This is partly because one part of the directing duo of John Wick, David Leitch, has helmed this film. You're able to tell that he is trying to mature as a filmmaker, relying a little bit more on story than action, but really dude... just do what you're good at. We like it. So, don't go into it thinking you're getting a female John Wick. You aren't. Go into it knowing you're watching a mediocre spy movie with a mind-blowing performance from a powerhouse actress who should've been making movies like this a long time ago. And, today, at 42, she's showing us that she's got the mind, spirit, body, and kick-ass moves of a 20 year old. Hollywood... listen to us now... Charlize Theron is the action star we want. Keep doing movies like this and the audience will show.


No comments:

Post a Comment