Um, so, I’m going to be one of the few people to admit that I enjoyed Atomic Blonde more than John Wick: Chapter 2… even though I’ll concede that the latter had a better plot (or, at the very least, one that wasn’t as convoluted). The fight scenes in this one were more fun, with part of the reason being that a woman was always at one end, punching and kicking and stabbing at all the macho men going after her. Always asserting her dominance—not invulnerably so, either. Early in the film, we see Charlize Theron’s Lorraine taking an ice bath, and she’s all bruised up from the combat. What’s really satisfying is being able to remember those bruises afterwards and know for certain they were not the result of disempowering violence. They do not signify victimhood. They are the marks of strength, and of a woman always one step ahead of the game. She’s the powerbroker here, not the pawn.
I think the key to enjoying this film is to not take it seriously. It’s not going to enlighten you about Cold War politics or make any sort of definitive statement that needs to be scrupulously analysed. The apocalyptic ‘80s Europop and punk soundtrack constantly in the air should be enough of an indicator to let your hair down. If not, the neon-heavy art design stylises things so much that you’d think this were some Blade Runner-esque fantasy. It’s all coded for you to prioritise sensorial enjoyment. And sometimes that’s needed. Not everything needs to be substance over style, you know?
So rock on, Charlize. I hope this won’t be the last we see of Lorraine. Maybe she and John Wick can meet up for lunch.