High expectations on this - John Wick with Furiosa and a classic 80s soundtrack? It couldn't be any more in my wheelhouse. So immediate thoughts were that it was just ok.
For me, it struggled with its identity somewhat - sure, it had all the hallmarks of a cold war spy thriller: noc lists (oops, wrong film), double crosses, triple crosses, informants, double agents, all set against the backdrop of a very cold and wintery Berlin, all very much firmly in place. Yet the mix of this with John Wick overtly stylistic action flick somehow didn't seem to quite mesh. How can such an in your face smackdown-a-thon, where our agent is instantly known by all the various parties, and who doesn't seem to mind being the absolute opposite of discretion in everything she does, mix with a died in the wool, undercover spy thriller? People say Bond is the worlds worst spy.........may I present the new kid in town!
In fact, up until the admittedly incredible single take (but not really) scrap/car chase that sees our Charlize dismantle and dismember countless goons (some with exceptional '80s porn 'taches and burns) while getting more and more bloody and pulpy herself, I was willing to classify this as 'all mouth, no trousers'. But that scene.......wow. I know it cheated and its not a single take, but when its that bruising, that insane, that kinetic and visual, you just don't care. That scene made the film for me. Stupendous stuff and any fan of action cinema needs to see it. And love it.
Leitch sure does stamp his vision on it and it looks superb - from his insane colour pallette, driven by the blinding neon colours of the myriad of all manner of low class and high class hedonistic establishments, to the little stylistic tricks he pulls with the camera both in and out of the various scraps, we're in no doubt who's in charge here. And mostly it works, thanks to a cheeky sense of humour about the whole thing that never lets the film get bogged down into dour misery. The rest of the cast are all good value (loving McAvoy's late emergence as a person of very dubious moral character), even if some of the Russians are drawn so thinly they'd fall over if blown.
So yes, the plotting is as dense but simple as they come (anyone NOT suss out who Satchel was immediately the name was mentioned?????) and yes, the mix of covert cold war spy caper and balls out actioner doesn't quite gel. But it looks amazing, it sounds even better (the soundtrack is a great mix of classic '80s choons, some not so classic '80s choons and some belting new ones that sound like classic '80 choons) and with the 10 minute action centrepiece of the year holding the film together, it did enough to win me over. Not quite as good as many of the reviews I'd read, but pretty darn close.
With such a distinctive look, the UHD had better not wuss out on us. And it didn't. Yes its not the sharpest flick in the world, but I don't think it was ever meant to be (check out the chunkily thick and slightly out of focus subtitles, giving it that extra does of 80s'-ness). Its not soft by any means, but there are sharper films out there.......but I don't think there are many with colours like this! I'm not even watching it on a HDR/WCG panel, but man, those colours leapt of the screen. Stunningly represented. And the DTS:X track, again, never the loudest, crunchiest, beefiest sounding action track, the music in this sounds about as good as I've heard pop music presented in a movie. Fully immersive, that music washes over you and its used so often it really is an essential part of the fabric of the film, as much as any score that's there. Throw in some lovely overhead usage (the sinking car for one) and its a cracker of a track.
Summary - an odd mix that just about works. Don't think too hard about the spy stuff, just enjoy the action stuff. And McAvoy in full on sleaze mode. The UHD looks fantastic but sounds even better. An easy recommendation as a very distinctive actioner, much more so than Wick (although not as good as either of those).