Fantasia Reviews: Atomic Blonde, Good Time and Death Note 3
Every year, Montreal’s Fantasia Fest offers a great array of both small and mainstream genre efforts. Today, we’re reviewing three of the biggest films at the festival, including Atomic Blonde, Good Time and Death Note: Light Up the New World. Read on for the three Fantasia reviews.
Atomic Blonde (July 28)
At its North American premiere, this weekend’s Charlize Theron action vehicle drew multiple rounds of applause throughout, mostly from its generously energetic action sequences. Theron plays a mysterious Cold War-era British spy named Lorraine Broughton, a tough-as-nails agent who uses her evasion, fighting and, yes, love making skills to track down a rogue agent and reacquire some sensitive information that could break the entire intelligence community.
Taking place in 1989 Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the film effortlessly toggles between her mission and a post-mission debriefing where a representative of both MI6 (Toby Jones) and the CIA (John Goodman) interrogate her on what went wrong. During her mission, she is aided by James McAvoy as David Percival, an eccentric British agent who has gone native, as well as Sofia Boutella as Delphine Lasalle, a novice French undercover who forms a mutual attraction with Lorraine.
As directed by David Leitch, one half of the 87eleven action choreography duo that made John Wick, Atomic Blonde has a propulsive pace and amazing period flavor punctuated by a heavy rotation of era-appropriate needle drops. While a lot of the songs are a little hackneyed (“99 Luftballons,” “Blue Monday,” “London Calling,” “Under Pressure”), we can forgive it for the fact that the film would work no matter what tracks were playing. This is doubly helped by Theron’s maximum commitment to playing a full-throttle action heroine, nowhere better demonstrated than during a 10+ minute sequence done in a single take in an apartment building that is nothing less than jaw dropping. Stuntman/actor extraordinaire Daniel Bernhardt (The Matrix Reloaded, John Wick) also pulls a lot of weight in this sequence.
Overall, Atomic Blonde should appeal to fans of old school, Tony Scott-esque style-drenched action and anyone looking for a movie with a real-deal kick-ass female protagonist. While it never quite reaches the heights of John Wick, it is far superior to the lackluster John Wick: Chapter 2 and bodes well for Leitch’s work helming the upcoming Deadpool 2.
Good Time (August 11)
From Ben and Josh Safdie, the New York brothers who directed 2009’s festival hit Daddy Long Legs, comes this hair-raising crime drama featuring a jolting, career-best performance from star Robert Pattinson. The former Twilight heartthrob plays a scuzzy-but-charming dirtbag named Constantine “Connie” Nikas, who pulls his mentally-handicapped brother Nick (co-director Ben Safdie) out of a special program to get his help committing a bank robbery. When the job goes needlessly wrong due to Connie’s greed, Nick winds up in lockup and then the hospital. Over a 24-hour period, we follow Connie as one bad decision begets another as he tries to simultaneously break his brother out and grab a big cash score wherever he can weasel one.
Connie’s journey leaves a path of human wreckage in his wake, and also leads to some wild situations involving an array of character both innocent and seedy. The script by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein throws so many curveballs that you can’t help but feel the adrenaline that’s feeding the lead character’s manic journey as he lies and scams his way into promising scenarios that only ever seem to lead to him digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole.
Along the way, Connie tries to use his older/crazed sugar mama Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), 16-year-old high school girl Crystal (Taliah Webster) and an escaped prisoner named Ray (Buddy Duress), but after a while you sense that everything this guy touches turns sour. While in other hands the film might not have worked, Pattinson’s performance is so precise that you can’t help but be fascinated by watching his desperation escalate. This is a terrific film that shows a new side of an actor you may or may not have written off as a franchise pretty boy. Think again.
Death Note: Light Up the New World (North American Premiere)
North American fans of the Death Note franchise may or may not be dreading Netflix‘s upcoming U.S. remake starring Nat Wolff, but they can take heart knowing that this third chapter in the Japanese live-action series is a worthy entry in Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s mythology.
A direct sequel to 2006’s Death Note 2: The Last Name, Light Up the New World begins as the Shinigami’s drop six new Death Notes on Earth in order to create the same chaos and havoc that Light Yagami (aka “Kira”) inflicted years before. When a new holder of the Death Note initiates a string of criminal deaths in the name of justice, Interpol taps the great detective L’s biological successor, Ryuzaki (Sosuke Ikematsu), to create a new Death Note Task Force. A new game of cat and mouse ensues that involves the return of Misa Amane (Erika Toda) and a hotshot young detective named Mishima (Masahiro Higashide), who is something of a Death Note fanboy.
Released to big box office in Asia last year, Death Note: Light Up the New World got a strong reception at the packed festival screening. While Death Note fever has yet to fully reach America, this third film is a perfect expansion of the world for the already-initiated. Those unfamiliar with either the manga, the anime nor the first two live-action movies may get lost in the often-convoluted Death Note rules, but even if you’re coming in cold you’ll be wowed by the impressive CGI shinigami monsters, as well as the brilliantly-eccentric performance by Ikematsu as a worthy successor to the character of L’s legacy.