Don't even bother going to see Atomic Blonde

Last night I saw Atomic Blonde. I was pretty excited. Despite the fact that I can't really handle looking at violence, I like action movies and I like watching women kick butts. Win-win.

You know how there were scores of women crying in Wonder Woman action scenes, because we were so overwhelmed to see such a strong woman represented on screen? Well, Atomic Blonde did not give me that same reaction. You know why? Because it's not a very good movie.

(Minor spoilers to follow!)


The story is convoluted and presented in such a way that the "twists" at the end are completely uninspiring. You know how at the end of Ocean's 11 you're like, "Oooooh SNAP! They were successful all along! BOOYAAAAAH!", and then excitedly watch the roll out of how they were in control the whole time? This movie could have had similar result, if it had been structured in a way to care at all about what's going on.

Story aside, I have three primary feminist complaints about the movie that basically boil down to: it was made by men for men. The male gaze was alllll over this thing.

Complaint number one: sexiness. Before I saw this movie a friend of mine asked if I wasn't bothered by how sexily she is portrayed and I said no, because action movies almost always have a sexy protagonist. There are exceptions, but it's a trope of the genre, so I figured it was just equal opportunity sexiness. Ah! But I had not yet seen the movie! In fact, the TWO (there are only two) women in it are not only thoroughly sexualized while the men remain un-sexy, but they are very... naked. The camera lingers.

Complaint number two: there is lesbian action in the movie that is clearly male fantasy girl on girl fun, not interesting "sexuality is fluid, let's explore this," lesbianism. Eye roll.

Complaint number three: There is a scene where a very sexy woman is alone in her apartment wearing a lace teddy (because that's how sexy women dress when they're at home alone), and then gets attacked and murdered by a man in a ski mask. Really? REALLY? A lone, sexy woman, being attacked in her home by a masked male intruder???? I'm exhausted.

Wait! I have one more feminist complaint! One more! Despite being about a Very Strong Woman going around punching everyone, she is basically controlled by men. The entire thing is framed by her reporting to the men she works for and the big reveal is that a different man controls her than we expected. For a hot minute you think that maybe she is actually following her own orders. She is not. The story-framing voice over monologue at the end even comes from a secondary male character.

Good things:

The music is top notch. If this movie came out 12 years ago, I would have considered buying the soundtrack. (Although I still can't believe that they failed to include the song ATOMIC by BLONDIE. Come on, guys. At least during the credits.)

There was some excellent endurance humour in the fights, where both parties were completely exhausted, trying and failing to catch their breath and get back into the fight.

The cinematography was pretty fantastic.

If you like fighting, there is some super-powered fighting.


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