The first trailer for Atomic Blonde arrived only just last week, but the first reviews from the film are flooding in. The pic marks the solo directorial debut of John Wick co-director David Leitch, who’s next gearing up to helm a little thing called Deadpool 2. Scripted by 300 scribe Kurt Johnstad, the film takes place in 1989 Berlin and stars Charlize Theron as an MI6 super-agent tasked with protecting a Stasi defector in between scenes that are both sultry and brutal.
While the reviews out of the film’s SXSW premiere praise Theron’s performance and Leitch’s direction of the action sequences, some also say the film suffers from an overly complex and ultimately disposable story. Over at Variety, Andrew Barker had a somewhat mixed response:
Theron casts an indomitable figure throughout, and the camera lingers on every contour of her face and body with an intensity that verges on the fetishistic. The action setpieces are every bit the equal of Leitch’s previous effort, John Wick, and Atomic Blonde should at least equal that film’s box office tally when it’s released this summer.
But so much uncut hardboiled posturing proves exhausting over a nearly two-hour runtime, and with zero emotional stakes and a plot that is both difficult and seemingly pointless to follow, there’s a fundamental emptiness behind all the flash. Virtuosic kick-ass filmmaking can be its own reward, but to paraphrase Idiocracy, you still need to care about whose ass it is, and why it’s being kicked.
And at THR, John DeFore says the film serves as sort of a proof-of-concept for a female James Bond film:
The more obvious comparison, of course, is with the latest, earthily violent incarnation of James Bond. As enjoyable as Atomic Blonde can be at times, its main utility may be its demonstration that Theron deserves better than this. If not a reincarnation in which James becomes “Bond, Jane Bond,” then at least something with more staying power than this actioner, which looks good and gets some things right, but is as uninterested in its protagonist’s personality as its generic name suggests.
But DeFore also singles out the film’s action sequences and admits that genre fans may not be too bothered by the story/character issues:
But genre fans will likely be so taken by the main event that they forget any storytelling disappointment leading up to it: A long sequence in the third act, in which Lorraine fights her way through an apartment house’s stairwell, is one for the ages, a bring-the-pain endurance test in which opponents seem nearly impossible to kill.