Action Atomic Blonde

'Atomic Blonde' Film Review: Charlize Theron is lethally blonde, with a license to thrill

July 28, 2017Ben MK

James Bond may be the granddaddy of the spy thriller, but over the past two decades, a number of contenders have emerged to take the genre in darker, more suspenseful and grittier directions, from Brian De Palma's Mission Impossible, to the Jason Bourne series, to Daniel Craig as 007 himself. But while the world waits for Craig to reprise his best-known role, a new challenger has arrived on the scene.

In Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton, a lethally blonde MI6 agent who specializes in kicking ass and taking names. It's the type of role Theron has played with aplomb once before, as the no-nonsense, battle-hardened Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. And even though Atomic Blonde isn't nearly as quintessential as George Miller's magnum opus, it does offer moviegoers something they've been craving more of since Wonder Woman, affording its star ample opportunity to inflict a vicious beating on her male opponents.

Story-wise, events unfolds against the backdrop of the Cold War. A fellow agent whom Lorraine was close to has been murdered, and she has been sent to Berlin to retrieve his body, as well as a list of undercover operatives that could rock East-West relations. It's November of 1989, days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and as tensions rise in the city, Lorraine must team up with MI6's "man in Berlin," David Percival (James McAvoy), as they attempt to locate and extract a Stasi defector codenamed Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), who can aid them in their cause.

Throw in a French spy (Sofia Boutella) who wants to bed Lorraine as much as she wants to help her, a mysterious double agent known only as Satchel, stereotypical Russian goons who don't know how to leave a fight well enough alone, plus a watchmaker (Til Schweiger) who specializes in timepieces of a covert nature, and you have the makings of a movie that relishes putting its own stylish spin on genre clich├ęs as much as it revels in its gloriously retro '80s soundtrack, packed with danceable tunes from the likes of George Michael, Depeche Mode and Queen.

Directed by David Leitch and scripted by Kurt Johnstad, who in turn adapts the story from the graphic novel "The Coldest City," the result isn't particularly original, borrowing heavily from the espionage action-thrillers that have come before, not to mention Leitch's own debut film, the deliriously violent and utra-cool John Wick. The novelty here, of course, is having a female lead character, and while even that has been done before — see Luc Besson's La Femme NikitaAtomic Blonde makes a compelling case for why the concept deserves another go-round.

From Theron's total commitment to her role — she takes a licking and keeps on ticking — to the film's centerpiece action sequence — a brutal stairwell-fight-turned-car-chase that seems to last for a good 20 minutes, sans edits — there's no shortage of moments throughout Atomic Blonde that will leave audiences either cheering, howling or grimacing (thanks to the regular doses of uber-violence). Toby Jones and John Goodman even turn up to lend the movie some deadpan levity, but by the end, the truth is pretty self-evident. Blondes really do have more fun.

Atomic Blonde releases July 28th, 2017 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 55 Mins.

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