Atomic Blonde (2017)

Coming as no surprise to anyone who saw Fury Road a couple of years ago, Charlize Theron cements herself as a bona fide action hero in Atomic Blonde. Kicking ass, drinking hard and romancing a beautiful lady, Charlize ticks all the 80’s action boxes, becoming 2017’s equivalent of 1987 Bruce Willis. Just a lot better looking. 

Directed by John Wick’s David Leitch, Atomic Blonde is a taut, neon,  80’s-set noir action spy thriller. Despite the mix of genres, Leitch retains tight control over the story and we’re dragged along on a wild, twisty ride. 

I suppose I’d better talk about the plot before I go on about the soundtrack and the visuals. 

Willkommen in Berlin mein freunde! It’s November 1989 and the Berlin wall is weeks away from falling. British spy Lorraine Broughton is sent to Germany to retrieve the body of a dead agent and lands in a Web of intrigue and deceit. Who is the double agent Satchel? Where is the missing list of all of the secret agent’s real names? Along the way she encounters rogue agent David Percival, played by James “I’m having a great 2017” McAvoy, not wholly trustworthy but her key to survival. 

Look, I can’t elaborate on the story any further. I’d break my cover. Oh and I would ruin the film. Based on The Coldest City, a graphic novel written by Antony Johnston and illustrated by Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde retains near enough the whole story, just adding a few new details and swapping a character’s gender. The book is fantastic and well worth a read, Johnston and Hart should be proud of this adaptation. 

The supporting characters are fleshed out by some incredible actors, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Til Schweiger and Eddie Marsan all showing up and bringing their pedigree to the film. Fresh off being The Mummy Sofia Boutella plays Delphine Lasalle, a French agent agent gender swapped from the books, still being bedded by Broughton, adding a new level to the story. Despite being very much the co-star McAvoy comes close to stealing the show, getting all the best lines and hamming it up gloriously. He’s always been a great actor but since Split, I feel like he’s gone to that next level. Also look out for the future Pennywise, Bill Skaarsgard! He gets a few good scenes, but all I could see was that scary clown face every time I saw him.  

David Leitch has crafted a gorgeous film, contrasting scenes bathed in neon lights with the icy blues of the debriefing room. It’s comparisons to his own John Wick are justified and I’m looking forward to his Deadpool sequel more than ever. The fight scenes and action choreography are simply stunning. There’s one 10 minute scene towards the end shot as if it’s one take. Mind blowing. Makes that legendary hallway fight from Netflix’s Daredevil show look like a schoolyard slap-fest. 

So let’s talk about the music. The soundtrack is very, very cool.  A mix of 80’s classics and, well, covers of 80’s classics, the right songs dropped at the right time. New Order, Bowie, A Flock of Seagulls, Depeche Mode. Some absolute classics and not always the obvious choices. Tyler Bates‘ score is also fantastic, acting as a heartbeat to some of the film, the pulsing electronica fitting so well to the visuals. 

A well paced, action packed spy romp, not too over the top and never too po-faced, Atomic Blonde is in cinemas now, it’s very much worth your time. 


Find my podcast interview with Antony Johnston here or search iTunes podcasts for Supernerds UK. He talks about Atomic Blonde and all of his other works!
For fans of:

John Wick 



Kingsman: The Secret Service 


John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

For some reason, I missed John Wick: Chapter 2 at the cinema. So it was an essential home video purchase, as I absolutely loved the first one. A throwback noir-action film with modern intensity and some outstanding choreography. Would the second one live up to the first?

Yes. Yes it would. 

Keanu Reeves returns as the titular John Wick, a hitman with an almost supernatural ability to kill. The first film saw John tragically lose his wife and while still reeling from her death, have his car stolen and his dog murdered by a particularly unlikeable Alfie Allen. He enacted his revenge by killing his way through hordes of bad guys, in one of the best action films this side of the 80’s. 

This movie, while largely being more of the same, expands the rich mythology introduced in the first one. the “Chapter 2” subtitle is spot on, it truly is a direct continuation as opposed to an unnecessary cash-grab sequel. Reeves takes his intensity and performance to the next level, bringing a new sense of desperation to Wick. When there’s nothing left to avenge and he’s forced back into the business, Wick’s survival instincts kick in. It’s great to see Keanu back as an action star, especially supported by such an amazing supporting cast. 

The plot is fairly simple, after a blistering, intensely violent opening gun battle, John Wick heads back to retirement. However, he owes a favour to Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who blows his house up and drags him instantly back out of retirement. Santino wants John to perform a hit on his own sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini) in Rome. Shit hits the fan, as you’d expect and Wick calls upon all his skills, resources and contacts to help him survive. 

One thing I couldn’t shake while watching was the feel of a noir James Bond movie, sort of a Bond antidote in some ways. Dark, ├╝ber violent and on the wrong side of the law. His visit to the tailor and gunsmith feeling like a trip to a twisted Q branch. 

Chad Stahelski
is directing solo this time, with John Wick 1 co-director David Leitch scooting off to make Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Not a bad trade to be fair. The two stunt performers turned directors also did the second unit work on Captain America Civil War, clearly cornering the market in big action scenes. 

Mind you, saying action is all Stahelski is good for would be a huge disservice, as JW2 looks gorgeous. From the swathes of neon light to the highly stylised subtitles, the whole movie feels it’s been expertly choreographed, everything flows perfectly. 
The supporting cast, as I mentioned above, is truly phenomenonal. Outside of our leads, we have turns from Peter Stormare, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Common. Everyone is chewing the scenery (except for a mute Ruby Rose, who solely uses sign language). David Patrick Kelly’s Charlie was sadly relegated to the blu ray deleted scenes. My interview with David, where he talks about the John Wick movies, amongst other things, can be found here

We also get to see Laurence Fishburne and Reeves back together for the first time since The Matrix movies, and what a reunion it is. Definitely more of the Fish to come in the JW Universe. Maybe even an appearance on the spin-off TV show that’s in development, The Continental,  based around the film’s chain of hotels,where in the assassins conduct business 
I really enjoyed John Wick Chapter 2. It’s a blisteringly paced action thriller. It has genuinely great characters inhabiting the it’s world, some you feel are placed just in case they choose to pull the trigger on them, so to speak, for use in a sequel. 

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