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.  

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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.


New X-Men, with an opening scene best left in the past

A review by Brenda Daniels

Mutants attack earth relentlessly in the opening scenes of this new X-Men movie. Despite their best efforts at retaliation, the X-Men clearly are not powerful enough to fight off their attackers and things look desperately grim.

The scene is accompanied by the voice of a narrator who asks a question worded something like this: Do we have to accept our fate or can we change what happens?

This question forms the basis for X-Men: Days of Future Past, the latest installment in the X-Men movie series. After the opening scene ends (which it did much to my relief), the story begins in earnest with the X-Men discussing how to solve the mutant problem that is decimating earth.

Their solution is to send one of their members back into the past in order to intercept Raven’s (Jennifer Lawrence) actions at a particular point, actions that had set the mutants in motion. Whilst Charles Xavier is the best choice to convince Raven, he isn’t physically capable of making the time-travel journey, bound as he is to a wheelchair.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), with his twitching muscles and visible veins, is therefore chosen to go instead. Wolverine makes the journey successfully and meets up with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). A very different Xavier  then, he at first resists Wolverine’s efforts at persuasion before giving in and helping to contact Raven. The action then proceeds along these lines.

Apart from Erik’s (Michael Fassbender) metal-bending antics, I quite enjoyed the story. Peter Dinklage as the evil Dr Trask makes an interesting enemy and there is a good amount of depth displayed within and between the characters. The film ends with just a hint that it’s not all over yet… So fans can probably look forward to more…

X-Men: Days of Future Past opens at Nu Metro cinemas in South Africa in 2D and 3D on Friday 23 May.

Soon to be released in South Africa - X-men: Days of Future Past

Soon to be released in South Africa – X-men: Days of Future Past

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International

Ian McKellen (Magneto) at the San Diego Comic Con International