Full of Feral Grace, Atomic Blonde Kicks You Where It Hurts

Posted July 28, 2017

"She wasn't very nice to me", Tia told a magazine several years ago, about Charlize's behavior. He also has Theron use whatever is at her disposal be it auto keys, her stiletto heels, or some rubber tubing. However, it's hard to know what to make of nearly any character in a good spy movie, and "Atomic Blonde" is no different. American films had been trying to mimic Hong Kong action cinema since John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat revolutionized the action genre with The Killer and Hard-Boiled, but Leitch and Stahelski were the first to fully capture the savage beauty of its aestheticized violence. It is Lorraine versus a handful of Soviet spies, none of them easily vanquished, and there is more anguish here than in the typical action sequence - by the end, she can barely stand. If those are your two main reasons for wanting to see Atomic Blonde, you're in luck.

She plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent assigned a risky task: retrieve a stolen dossier that includes the identities of the British agency's spies before it's sold into enemy hands. Directed by David Leitch, from a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel series "The Coldest City" by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. Sit close enough to the screen, and you're likely to get some of it on you. The fight scene is fluidly edited, so it looks like one continuous take, with wild camera pans allowing for different shots.

If "Atomic Blonde" has a weakness it's that it loves the '80s too much.

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, and John Goodman. This became apparent to my ears, in short order, since Leitch's audio-mixing people boost the wild and insane track music, as well as the grunt sounds of blunt force traumatizing, up more decibels than I could imagine, which makes it perfectly clear that this is, by god, the most kick ass scene you're ever gonna see in anybody's motion picture.

Theron and the action itself make this one worthwhile. She worked with what seemed like the ideal director for the project, too: David Leitch co-directed "John Wick", where Keanu Reeves played a hitman forcibly taken out of retirement so he could beat hundreds of people up. You know, the Atomic Blonde universe is its own universe. Theron, who has a long history of elevating every movie she's in (check out her underrated turn in "Young Adult", or her delicious villain in "Snow White and the Huntsman"), deserves better. The Cold War is still in effect and she's sent to East Berlin to investigate the murder and recover a list of covert agents, one of whom is a double agent that's been causing lots of trouble. Secondly, I like lesbian scenes as much as the next guy, but can we please stop filling movies that bill themselves as female empowerment with this stuff?

There's no point in resisting it - we have to admit that we live in a world where Oscar-winning actors with actual acting chops gladly appear in movies based on comic books (or "graphic novels" if they want to sound classier) to establish their movie-star bones.

Unfortunately, "Atomic Blonde" fumbles its own tale.

Five minutes after arriving in the city, Lorraine is fighting for her life - setting the tone for a film that rarely takes its foot off the accelerator. Until everyone shoots at her in an extended chase/face-off sequence, no one shoots at her, preferring garrotes, knives and insults.

The second thing that makes Atomic Blonde creative and fun is Theron. And since at least one Agent has already been put on ice, MI6 dispatches Theron's hard-edged problem-solver to slip in, work the ground and (possibly) get James McAvoy's "gone native" deep cover operative back on track.

And it never, ever lets you forget it. In fact, were "Baby Driver" still not so fresh in our minds, the use of music in "Atomic Blonde" might seem a whole lot cooler, baby.

Of course, there's just as decent a chance you won't anticipate the twist on the twist, but even that's a bit disappointing, as it robs the first of a potentially heavy impact in favor of a trite resolution.