Directed by: David Leitch
Run time: 115 minutes
The Lowdown: Don’t watch Atomic Blonde for the plot, as you’ve seen this story unfold before: There’s a list of double agent cover names and actual identities that’s about to fall in enemy hands, and only one agent is good enough to keep that list secure and avenge the death of her spy lover.
Why anybody would bother to write those names down escapes me, except otherwise, there would be no movie.
You watch Atomic Blonde to appreciate the taste of blood on your lip and the rush of adrenaline in your heart after seeing Charlize Theron literally tear across Cold War-era Berlin like a blonde kamikaze, snapping necks, shattering limbs and delivering the best female-centric action movie in recent memory (if not all time).
Atomic Blonde is simply fantastic, and it does so many things so well that its use of a recycled plot is easily forgiven.
Much like the John Wick franchise, this is the kind of raw, brash and brutal action film that fans of the genre deserve. It elevates hand-to-hand combat into an art form, and delivers several extended sequences that rival The Raid for its operatic violence, insane fight choreography and gorgeous cinematography.
Theron owns Atomic Blonde – it’s hers to make or break, and she makes the most of every second of screen time, whether she’s nursing her wounds with vodka and an ice bath, seducing a hot double agent (Sofia Boutella) or standing toe to toe in an interrogation with John Goodman.
It seems like piling on to say, but even the excellent supporting cast is spot-on, including an unhinged James McAvoy who, between this and Split, has had one hell of a good year on-screen.
Atomic Blonde revels in its nostalgic Cold War 1980’s setting, with its neon hues and period fashion, but it’s the film’s voracious appetite for carnage that helps deliver a female reckoning for the ages.
Here’s to hoping Theron is game to explore more of her character’s exploits in future films, because we are all-in and first in line to see when she does.
The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Oh yes, Charlize Theron is smoking hot.
Nudity – Yes.
Gore – Considerable gun violence.
Drug use – Yes.
Bad Guys/Killers – German spies.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
J.D.’s Revenge (Arrow Video, 96 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Kudos to Arrow Video for delivering something unexpected, J.D.’s Revenge, a 1976 supernatural/blaxploitation mashup from director Arthur Marks that also features a fantastic supporting turn by Louis Gossett Jr. as a preacher with questionable intentions.
J.D.’s Revenge is both a serious examination, at times, of a young African-American man trying to become a lawyer and a subversive drive-in feature detailing how that man becomes possessed by the vengeful spirit of a 1940’s gangster who uses the man’s body as his vessel to cut a bloody swath across 1970’s New Orleans while targeting the relatives and remaining people who participated in the murders of him and his sister.
Good stuff. Really good.
Unlocked (Lionsgate, 99 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Noomi Rapace does her best Angelina Jolie with an all-star supporting cast, including Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and John Malkovich. The set-up is familiar – a government agent finds herself thrust into the middle of a possible doomsday plot – but the execution by director Michael Apted, along with the prowess of his impressive cast, makes this action flick enjoyable enough to justify your time.
The D.C. Follies: The Complete Series
The Incredible Shrinking Woman: Collector’s Edition
In This Corner of the World
The Paul Naschy Collection II
The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature
Now on Video-on-Demand:
The Dark Tapes (Epic Pictures, 98 minutes, Unrated, Amazon Prime VOD): The Dark Tapes shouldn’t be as good as it is, but that’s part of what makes the found footage genre so enjoyable.
When it works, it really works well.
Given the slew of found footage films and anthology films that have flooded the genre in the last two years alone, The Dark Tapes stands out because it elevates its four interlocking stories with several unexpected, and quite intelligent, twists. It's also a showcase for some seriously creepy practical effects.
One of the best of the four stories, The Hunters and the Hunted, involves a family of seemingly innocent victims who have to contend with what appears to be a vengeful spirit haunting their new home. The family solicits a local group of paranormal researchers to stay at their house with them to document the supernatural goings-on. However, just because something looks like a ghost doesn’t mean that it is.
Another highlight is the wraparound story, To Catch a Demon, which introduces a wonderful, practical effects creature that is called an interdimensional monster.
The most ambitious of the segments, Amanda’s Revenge, explores the psychological effects of a significant trauma, in this case, an attempted date rape, and then mines truly disturbing territory with some exceptional visuals for a found footage feature.
The Dark Tapes, a collaboration by writer-director Michael McQuown and co-director Vincent J. Guastini, is available now to purchase and stream via Amazon Prime. It’s a solid effort that deserves to be seen. BVB says check it out!
Not to be Overlooked:
Mortal Remains (Cryptic Pictures, 95 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Mortal Remains purports to be a found-footage documentary focused on a filmmaker, Karl Atticus, who made a movie so reprehensible, so vile, that its one theatrical showing sparked near-riots and condemnation from viewers who were traumatized by what they saw.
In reality, this self-professed “shockumentary” isn’t all too different from John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns, a 2005 entry from the television show Masters of Horror.
Both stories deal with men relentlessly searching for a lost film that is rumored to have sparked madness and mayhem. Both stories feature people making seriously dumb decisions. And both finished products ultimately leave the viewer wanting, if only, to see the actual film that the story is about instead of what’s been presented.
What sets Mortal Remains apart, though, is the involvement of Eduardo Sánchez, one half of the creative team behind The Blair Witch Project. Sánchez appears in Mortal Remains to add some credibility to the movie’s set-up, and while it’s clear he’s helping out some independent filmmaking pals, his mere presence early on in Mortal Remains keeps you watching to see just how depraved the movie may get.
The answer is not very, at least by today’s standards.
Sure, Mortal Remains makes the case – through too-brief snippets of carefully curated film stock that looks grainy and damaged – that Atticus’ film of the same name was basically a snuff film depicting real killings for entertainment’s sake, but is that really so shocking in 2017 when actors are now dropping F-bombs on cable TV shows and films like the American Guinea Pig franchise gleefully depict the most sadistic atrocities imaginable being done to seemingly real, defenseless victims?
Once the guys desperately seeking Atticus actually uncover what they hoped to find, Mortal Remains basically does exactly what you expect and ends exactly like you predicted.