Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Imperator Furiosa as an 80’s Jane Wick, or Thoughts on Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde (2017) is ostensibly a Cold War action movie featuring double and triple agents, but the real stars are the fight scenes featuring Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton, the ice bathing, pill-popping, chain smoking, hard drinking, knuckle taping MI-6 agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  An icy 80’s Hitchcock blonde who kicks ass, the story is told in retrospect during a tense de-briefing by her London spymasters after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
From director John Lietch, the co-director for John Wick (2014), and a stuntman on The Matrix Revolutions (2003), 300 (2006), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), the fight scenes are right in his wheelhouse.  There’s an underlying masochistic aspect to Atomic Blonde; she wears those bruises like her designer heels to show what a hard hitter she is.  The violence is no less brutal and unrelenting as John Wick or Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), or even Rocky IV (1985, the one with Dolph Lundgren), but the female protagonist spin may be uncomfortable for some viewers.
A color film in black and white with splashes of neon, the sentimental 80’s soundtrack features David Bowie, Siouxsie and the Banshees, New Order, Depeche Mode, A Flock of Seagulls and of course, this being Berlin and all, 99 Luftballoons. 
Anecdotally, the garden hose escape has been used in multiple movies, including a really gory and spectacular variation in Machete (2010), and for your reference female-centric action movies in the 80’s looked more like Red Sonja (1985).  Charlize Theron is no stranger to the genre, a decade before Fury Road she was high kicking in Aeon Flux (2005).  There’s nothing new with this action-hero level of violence against a female protagonist; there’s La Femme Nikita (1990) and the aforementioned Kill Bill, Bandidas (2006, with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayak), Everly (2014, with Salma Hayak again), Haywire (2011, MMA fighter Gina Carano) or Zoë Bell in Raze (2013), and look at me sneaking in links to the rest of the week’s content.

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