Women of various types, in Atomic Blonde, Lady Macbeth and a typical film noir
Women are the link that unites this week’s movies. Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde is brutally icy. Lady Macbeth, not Shakespeare’s but the Russian one, upsets the patriarchy. Night Editor gives us a typical conniving film noir dame. And there’s more: in a Spirit Week film, a woman seeks a natural cure in the Amazon. In another, several describe the spiritual benefits of quiet.
Here’s today’s list:
Atomic Blonde: 2 ½ stars
Lady Macbeth: 3 ½
Night Editor: 3
Spirit Week film: Icaros: A Vision: 3
Spirit Week Film: In Pursuit of Silence: 3 ½
The Emoji Movie: not reviewed
ATOMIC BLONDE: This film reinforces Charlize Theron’s move as an action star (after the last Mad Max movie) but then goes way too far. She kicks and punches like a dynamo, whacks guys with a hotplate, a fridge door and anything else nearby. She fights eight of them at a time in one sequence, up and down a stairwell until she and the last one standing are so tired out they’re gasping for breath. The director, David Leitch, a former stuntman, stages four extended battles for her and those I can recommend.
However, Charlize is also ice cold and brutal. She shoots guys point blank in the head, spattering blood on the wall behind them. We’ve seen that in movies before and it doesn’t fit her. And she has a couple of lesbian sex scenes. You can see what audience she’s after. I can tell you what audience she won’t get: the fans of John LeCarre-like spy fiction. This one, from a graphic novel, has moles and deception too but try to make sense of it. One character at the end wonders who won and what was the game anyway.
Charlize tells the story in a post mortem interrogation by MI-6 and CIA agents (Toby Jones and John Goodman). She had been sent to East Berlin (that’s before the wall came down) to investigate an agent’s murder and bring back a microfilm with a list of all the spies hovering around. She had to connect with James McAvoy, playing an unlikely station chief and Eddie Marsan, as an improbable Stasi functionary, and was seduced by Sofia Boutella, a French woman of mystery. Actually all the connections are mysterious. Who for instance is the double agent named Satchel? You won’t care about the characters or the plot so go for Theron’s ferocious energy and to watch her take a couple of baths. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and a few suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
LADY MACBETH: The subordination of women is the theme and what one woman does about it is the story. How you manage to sympathize will be a test though, in this Victorian melodrama based on a 19th century Russian novel. It’s slow but immensely engrossing as it reveals to a young bride what’s expected of her. She’s not to go outside. She’s to occupy herself with solitude and reflection and, according to her stern-father-in-law, recognize that she’s only there to produce a legitimate heir for her husband.
He’s cold and remote when he’s around and gone away through much of the film tending to an emergency at a coal mine he owns. That lets loose a psychological deluge. The bride does go out and wanders the estate. A first act of rebellion. She scolds, and is then attracted to, a new groomsman prone to gambling and before you know it, starts sleeping with him. A black maid, her only confidant, disapproves but stays loyal and won’t tell. The bride’s character becomes darker and she commits far more than adultery. Eventually she even turns against the maid. So, was she driven to it by a patriarchal society? Acclaimed British stage director William Oldroyd with his first film and his star Florence Pugh with her luminous presence just lay out the evidence, stark as it is. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5
NIGHT EDITOR: The Cinematheque’s annual three weeks of Film Noir starts Thursday and this little- known gem plays second on opening night. Leonard Maltin calls it “minor” and he’s right if he’s referring to length, only a little over an hour, and status. It’s definitely a B-Picture, probably shown as the lesser part of a double-bill. Double Indemnity precedes it this time. But it has a lot to recommend it too. I hadn’t seen it before and was surprised and entertained.