While it sometimes seems like smart action movies have been replaced by cheap knockoffs, dumb excuses to break stuff, and comic book movies, there have been some exceptions the last few years. Most notably: the Bourne movies, John Wick and its sequel, and now Atomic Blonde, a powerhouse action-pack spy flick newly available in a Blu-ray, DVD, digital combo pack; a 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, digital combo pack; and on DVD.
Inspired by The Coldest City, a since retitled graphic novel by writer Antony Johnston [Wasteland] and artist Sam Hart [Messenger: The Legend Of Joan Of Arc], Atomic Blonde introduces us to MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton [The Fate Of The Furious‘ Charlize Theron] who, in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall falls, is tasked with investigating the murder in Berlin of a fellow MI6 agent who had a list of every secret agent working in the Soviet Union. While follows involves a lot of espionage, gunplay, and, well, smoking.
In many ways, Atomic Blonde is very much in the spirit of the John Wick movies. Directed by David Leitch — who co-directed John Wick (though he was uncredited) and is now helming Deadpool 2 — Atomic Blonde features a similar mix of raw combat and stylishly shot visuals, though neither are done in a pointlessly-artsy way.
Atomic Blonde also has a solid cast that including Sofia Boutela sparkling like she did in Star Trek Beyond, the always authoritative John Goodman [Kong: Skull Island] providing security as a CIA handler, and James McAvoy [X-Men: Apocalypse] doing his best impression of Tyler Durden from Fight Club.
Though it’s really Theron who sells it. Granted, she’s no stranger to action; she’s more than held her own in such films as Mad Max: Fury Road, Aeon Flux, and others. But she really lets loose here. In one rather clever fight, she uses a rope in a way that outdoes anything in Wonder Woman. And it’s all done with the same cold, detached veneer she had in Prometheus, which makes her even more intimidating.
The only bummer about Atomic Blonde is that it isn’t the spy thriller it tries so hard to be. It just doesn’t have the intrigue. Which isn’t to say it’s just a poor excuse to watch Theron kick ass for two hours, it is smarter than that, but it’s not nearly as intricate as something like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which would’ve made this even better.
As for how Atomic Blonde is presented on Blu-ray and DVD, well, while it has a lot of cool extras, it is missing some key ones.
To start, the Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD has a commentary by director David Leitch and editor Elisabet Ronaldsdottir [who, of course, edited John Wick]. As you might expect, if you’ve ever listened to a commentary when it only includes the filmmakers, not the actors, it’s informative but can be a bit too film school-ish at times. The absence of Theron from this track is also rather glaring. Not just because she’s a smart, interesting person, but also because she was one of the film’s producers, and was integral in bring this film to life.
Next, the Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD have six deleted or extended scenes, clocking in at about seven and a half minutes total. But while some are interesting, none are essential. Also, annoyingly, there’s no indication as to why they were cut.
The Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD also has some informative making-of featurettes: “Welcome To Berlin” has the cast and crew talking about what it was like to shoot there; “Blondes Have More Fun” talks about the character of Broughton; “Spymaster” spends a few minutes discussing Leitch and what he wanted to do with the film; while “Anatomy Of A Fight Scene” is a deep dive into one of the movie’s most involve brawls. What this lacks, though, is one about the original graphic novel, which set this all in motion.
Next, the Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD present “Story In Motion: Lorraine Broughton” and Story In Motion: The Chase,” which are animated storyboards of two early scenes from the movie. Both of which also have optional commentaries by Leitch, though all this does is make it that much more irritating that he didn’t do the same for the deleted scenes.
It’s also irritating that the Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD don’t have the movie’s original trailers. Especially if (like me) you feel a movie’s Blu-ray and DVD should present the complete picture of the film.
In the end, the Atomic Blonde Blu-rays and DVD does a really good but not really great job of presenting this compelling action flick in a manner that will make its fan happy. It’s just too bad this collection isn’t as smart and as punchy as the movie it presents.