The Films of David Leitch
Atomic Blonde (August 19/17)
Based on a graphic novel series, Atomic Blonde, which unfolds in the late 1980s, follows secret agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) as she's tasked with retrieving an invaluable list of Soviet spies - with problems ensuing as it becomes clear that said list only exists in the mind of Eddie Marsan's Spyglass. It's clear immediately that filmmaker David Leitch isn't looking to deliver a gritty spy thriller here, as Atomic Blonde boasts an impressively striking visual sensibility that's heightened by a series of captivating action sequences - with the movie's obvious highlight an extraordinarily engrossing seven-minute set piece detailing a battle involving gun battles, hand-to-hand skirmishes, and even a car chase. The problem is, then, that scripter Kurt Johnstad has delivered a pervasively convoluted narrative that holds the viewer at arms length from beginning to end, with the almost impossible-to-comfortably-follow storyline exacerbated by Leitch's padded-out, wheel-spinning approach to the material (ie it often feels like the entirety of Atomic Blonde's midsection is devoted to Lorraine's tedious investigation). Theron's strong (if somewhat one-note) work as the ass-kicking protagonist ultimately does compensate for the movie's meandering vibe, while the aforementioned action beats go a long way towards buoying one's interest during the narrative's more overtly meandering stretches. And although Leitch attempts to tie everything together in the third act, Atomic Blonde's mostly head-scratching atmosphere ensures that climactic revelations are unable to pack the punch (or even coherence) that the filmmaker has surely planned - which does, in the end, secure the picture's place as a middling actioner that could and should have been much better.
Deadpool 2 (May 16/18)
One of the new century's best comic-book movies, Deadpool 2 follows Ryan Reynolds' title character as he's forced to battle a villainous figure from the future known only as Cable (Josh Brolin). Deadpool 2, much like its entertaining predecessor, boasts an absolutely enthralling (and frequently hilarious) opening stretch that's heightened by Reynolds' almost impossibly charismatic performance, and it's clear, too, that the movie benefits substantially from the extremely-welcome decision not to attempt to outdo the original in terms of action or stakes (ie the movie doesn't climax with a larger-than-life and hopelessly tedious CGI battle to save the planet). Reynolds' strong work is matched by an engaging supporting cast that includes Zazie Beetz, Eddie Marsan, and T.J. Miller (and a host of fun cameo appearances), and yet Brolin's impressively layered turn as the far-from-generic bad guy ultimately stands as the movie's most unexpectedly engrossing attribute. Filmmaker David Leitch does a superb job of peppering the well-paced narrative with exciting action sequences (eg a mid-movie chase involving an enormous truck), while the picture's perpetually irreverent atmosphere, rife with amusing winks and nods at the viewer, remains an ongoing pleasure and paves the way for the most rewarding mid-end-credits sequence in ages. And although the picture's coda goes on just a little too long, Deadpool 2 nevertheless remains a superior summer blockbuster that, most impressively, never loses the human element that made the first movie so compelling.