Stereotyping ‘Male’ Characteristics: Atomic Blonde & A Family Man

Image source: Ster Kinekor

In the spy action thriller, Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron acts as a British MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent into cold war Berlin to recover a top secret document. The film opens with Broughton being grilled post-operation by her superior, Eric Gray (Toby Jones), and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). She looks battered and bruised. The story goes into the past from here, flashing forward at intervals to further debriefing scenes in which Broughton seems to be getting a raw deal.

Broughton was chosen for this difficult mission, it transpires, because of her amazing skills at detecting and beating up hordes of fighting men. Warned not to trust anyone Broughton is even suspicious of her MI6 contact in Berlin, David Percival (James McAvoy). A number of important foes with names I found hard to keep a track of come and go, as do groups of others sent to confront Broughton and prevent her succeeding in her mission.

The only person Broughton seems to genuinely connect with is female French agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a vulnerable,

Image source: Ster Kinekor

inexperienced first-timer. The two women have sex.

In Atomic Blonde there is action, fighting, double crossing and plot twists from beginning to end. I particularly liked a scene in which Broughton slips into a group of people escorting an important contact while snipers aim at them from buildings up above. In a synchronised move everyone in the crowd puts up black umbrellas obscuring the prey from the shooters’ view.

But Broughton’s brilliant fighting skills seemed unrealistic. The film’s feminist stance – the two main female characters are virtually the only goodies – is undermined by the aggrandisement of male-type characteristics of physical aggression. Paired with lingering camera shots of Theron’s beautiful profile, this focus wasn’t enough to carry the shallow plot.

Atomic Blonde opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 25 August 2017.  

Image source:

Another film that portrays a stereotypical male role, this time in the form of the undesirable absent father, is A Family Man.

Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler) works for a recruitment agency and will do anything to meet his figures every month. He undercuts other agents, lacks integrity when dealing with job seekers, is constantly robbing his family of time with them, and puts undue pressure on his son Ryan (Max Jenkins).

When Ryan becomes ill Jensen is challenged to shape up and become a better man, husband and father.

A Family Man is a moralistic story of character building. But, like Atomic Blonde, has unrealistic aspects. Recruitment is equated with the tough world of stock trading. Jensen’s wife is too forgiving. And the denouement is much too neatly tied up. I found the plot bitty, Butler’s American accent annoying, and the ‘absent father’ theme a bit tiresome.

A Family Man is currently on circuit in South Africa.


Officaldom in Washinton DC

Travel review by Brenda Daniels

Like many South Africans, the closest I get to the American culture is through the many Hollywood films I enjoy watching. But a recent trip to Washington DC allowed me to see a small part of the USA in stereo – that is, with and without the movie lens.

On my first hot and sunny DC day I set off from our hotel with just a few dollars and a camera in my pocket. Not very good when it comes to reading maps I decided to walk in a straight line and then when I’d had enough, to simply turn round and retrace my steps. The turning point came when I reached a sign that stated “This is the most famous address in Washington DC”, after which I encountered a large white building behind a fence. Despite the desperate condition of the White House at the end of the film White House Down starring Gerard Butler, the state building I saw before me looked well-kept and pretty. And the few police personnel on duty outside the barriers looked calm and relaxed. Concluding that this attraction was indeed the intact office of President Obama I freely took photos before heading back.

The White House, I walked in a straight line from the hotel and happened to walk right to the President's home.

The White House, I walked in a straight line from the hotel and happened to walk right to the President’s home.

The next day my husband and I enjoyed a tour of the National Cathedral, a beautiful, Gothic structure, complete with a bell tower and enormous organ. Famous statesmen, artists, architects and war heroes are represented in this well-maintained church, from Martin Luther King to Mother Theresa and many others in between. Although not a science fiction fundi by any means, like many theatre goers old and young, I did enjoy Star Wars. So it was with great interest that I learnt that none other than Darth Vader features as one of the gargoyles ensconced upon this marvellous edifice. We didn’t actually get a view of him though and had to take the guide’s word for it; perhaps he was on the dark side.

The National Cathedral, where there was a Darth Vadar Gargoyle.

The National Cathedral, where there was a Darth Vader Gargoyle.

Many action-type films like The Interpreter and the teen First Daughter feature mysterious secret service agents and ear-piece-clad bodyguards who invariably race around in blue-light brigades, leaving excited onlookers in their wake. We got to experience this first hand while strolling through the quaint suburb of Georgetown later the same day. Loud sirens stopped shoppers in their tracks as a cavalcade of cop cars and black 4x4s hurtled down the street, pulling up to the kerb right next to us. Bodyguards leapt out of the vehicles and cleared the path for a very important looking general to walk into one of the shops. Starbucks.

Phew, I didn’t know their coffee was that good!

The secret service or CIA or something like it, escourted to Starbucks.

The secret service or CIA or something like it, escourted to Starbucks.

Brosnan thrills in The November Man

A review by Brenda Daniels

The November Man is a fast-paced thriller starring Pierce Brosnan in excellent form as abrasive CIA Agent, Peter Devereaux. The film opens in the midst of a tense operation that sees Devereaux on mission while training young CIA sniper, Mason (Luke Bracey).

Although highly accurate, Mason fails to follow Devereaux’s orders and the mission is botched: an innocent bystander, a child, is killed. The elements in this opening scene hint at what is to come in the rest of the film, introducing important strands that run throughout: an intricate plot, high-intensity action, and a surprising underlying theme of relationship. The latter gives The November Man depth and richness.

The main story sees Devereaux called in to perform a difficult mission in Chechnya. When things go awry it becomes apparent that the Russians, Chechneans and two strands of the CIA are all after one woman: Alice (Olga Kurylenko). Devereax’s and Alice’s pasts, and Mason’s former dealings with Devereaux all gradually come to light as the story progresses.

Tension is maintained throughout The November Man and the intricate plot meant I had to concentrate. The relationship element is an important one – one to which Brosnan did eminent justice.

The November Man is a thrilling, engrossing watch. It opens at NuMetro theatres in South Africa on 3 October.

Pierce Brosnan at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Creative Commons

Pierce Brosnan at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: Creative Commons