Right up front, I could sit and watch a two-hour movie of nothing but actress Charlize Theron glaring into the camera with those beautiful hazel eyes of hers, and then walk out of the theater anxiously awaiting the sequel.
So, the good news is that in Atomic Blonde Ms. Theron does do a lot of glaring into the camera, usually while sexily smoking a cigarette, sometimes sans clothing, either before or after kicking the butts of several Cold War evil-doers.
This film is packed with style, stunts, sex, a spectacular soundtrack… and those eyes. Unfortunately, that’s all just colorful graffiti on a cold stone-wall of a story that is almost completely devoid of humor and heart. It’s a shame, really, because this film, with its badass heroine, could have been a true classic of the action genre.
First time feature director, David Leitch, is a former stuntman, and that specialty shines through on the stunt-side of this film. In that respect, this guy really knows what he’s doing; and action cinematographer, Jonathan Sela (John Wick), does a fantastic job of giving the elaborately coordinated stunt sequences a powerful punch.
Set during the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), Theron is the titular Atomic Blonde, a British MI6 spy, Lorraine Broughton, sent into the city to recover a list of double agents before it falls into the hands of the Russians.
The film is based on the graphic novel, The Coldest City, by writer Antony Johnston and illustrator Sam Hart, but the script by Kurt Johnstad (who was also the scribe on the 300 films) is mundane and convoluted. After a short time I gave up trying to keep track of the sleep-inducing who and why of it all and just tried to stay awake for the next cool action sequence.
The narrative is intercut with the interrogation of the bruised and beaten Broughton by M16 and CIA spy bosses, Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman), and it is all rather boring and stereotypical.
The film also stars James McAvoy as David Percival, another M16 agent in Berlin that is playing both ends against the middle. His performance is over-the-top and the character, like most of the characters in this movie, is paper-thin and nearly unnecessary – just another foil for Theron to fight.
The stunning Sofia Boutella, whom you’ll remember from The Mummy, Star Trek Beyond, and as Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service, plays a French spy and Broughton’s love interest. Til Schweiger portrays a watchmaking intermediary to the spies; and Eddie Marsan plays Spyglass, a man who has committed the sought-after double-agent list to memory.
This film has an amazing soundtrack with period-specific tunes by the likes of David Bowie, ‘Til Tuesday, and Siouxsie & the Banshees. In fact, the Atomic Blonde herself looks like she could be the lead singer of one of those new wave bands of the eighties.
This is not a great film, but there is one unedited, extended action-sequence that lasts about 10 minutes (I’m guessing) that is incredible and worth the price of admission all on its own. It appears that Theron is actually performing these stunts, and if she is then just hand her an Academy Award now; or put her in a cage with the other nominees and give the award to whoever comes out alive. [Hint: It will be Theron!]
If you are not worried about a cohesive, well-told story, or if fight-sequences and gratuitous nudity make a good movie in your book, or if you are easily hypnotized by beautiful hazel eyes, then Atomic Blonde is going to work well for you. Grade: 6.5/10
Photos Copyright © 2017 Focus Features LLC.