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SXSW 2017 Review: Atomic Blonde – The Living Highlights

I’ve always wanted to see a James Bond movie where he traveled the world, fought the bad guys and seduced men (no, that one line in Skyfall is not enough). A lesbian Jane Bond is a good start. My idea is still too confronting to homophobes but homophobic men at least can accept lesbians first. Baby steps.

Atomic Blonde mixes Cold War espionage with modern fight technique. Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) meets contacts and doesn’t know who she can trust. Delphine (Sophie Boutella) is her French Intelligence Bond girl in what would probably be too progressive for the era in which Atomic Blonde is set, 1989, but has been long overdue so thank you for finally making LGBT action, and not making it exploitive.

Broughton is being debriefed by her superiors after the mission. We’ve seen her entire body bruised in an ice bath and this is the story of how she rendezvoused with David Percival (James McAvoy) looking for a list. It’s a standard MacGuffin but like everything else, women have to break the glass ceiling just to get the same generic action vehicles as men.

That stairwell fight is the centerpiece action scene of the film. Everything else was a warmup. You start to see how she got bruised and start counting the injuries. Her other fights feature more basic strikes but are clear and dynamic. Fighting multiple opponents she alternates strikes so she hits one while the other is recovering.

In between fights, the business of spywork can be slow and plodding. For better or worse, it’s everything male spy movies can be. Although, die hard John Le Carre fans may be just as excited to see the feminist handling of exposition as I was to see her kicking ass.

I predict a franchise. Broughton will have to go undercover as Atomic Brunette and Atomic Ginger. Then decades later she can come out of retirement as Atomic Silver Fox!

Written by
Fred Topel also known as Franchise Fred has been an entertainment journalist since 1999 and specializes in writing about film, television and video games. Fred has written for several outlets including About.com, CraveOnline, and Rotten Tomatoes among others. His favorite films include Toy Story 2, The Rock, Face/Off, True Lies, Labyrinth, The Big Hit, Michael Moore's The Big One, and Casablanca. We are very lucky and excited to have Fred as part of the We Live Entertainment team. Follow him on Twitter @FranchiseFred and @FredTopel

Your Rating

5 16
  • Allen Jacobs

    Absolutely. We need lots more gay interaction in these films. No sense taking baby steps. A clear shot of an erect penis into a male anus. That’ll really stir up the Bible Belt across America to go to the movies. /sarc

    • Spectrum

      Your sarcasm will be real in a short while, given the rate at which the perversion indoctrination rollout is going.

  • NovaJake

    What kind of review is this? You basically just summed up the plot and said it was good to have LGBT characters.

  • jayenjr

    Baby steps?

    Babies are known to fall down if no one guides them in life…

  • Keyt

    The review along with your quote on the review is asinine, and you my friend, are a complete and utter moron.

    • Spectrum

      No subtlety about this reviewer’s aims. He ( Fred Topel ) expects us ( the 98.5% majority normal of the population ) to approve and celebrate his ideal of completely normalising the perversion he indulges in. It won’t happen pal, no matter how much you and your activist allies in Hollywood and the media try to impose it on us.

      “Too confronting to homophobes” ? Well of course non depraved people are going to find repulsive behaviour like yours confronting. It’s the natural reaction to have. But “phobic”, which implies fear ? Oh no, we’re homodisgustic, not homophobic. But you lack the awareness and self analysis to understand why that is, don’t you, Mr. Topel ?

  • DustinDopps

    There’s a problem: the Mcguffin is stupid. If a list exists of every spy’s real identity, someone put the list together. That person – and their sources – are way more valuable than the list hidden in a watch. It just makes no sense.

    The action was brutal and neat, but the plot was full of too many holes to really appreciate.

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