By Brad Haynes
★★1/2 out of ★★★★
Based on the graphic novel series The Coldest City, the trailer for Atomic Blonde leads you to believe you’re in for a hyperstylized action adventure with excitement from start to finish. Well, it is hyperstylized and visually a delight to look at, with plenty of action, but it also tends to be deadly dull for the most part.
Charlize Theron stars as MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, who is thrust into a dangerous mission of intel extraction in Germany right as the Berlin Wall is about to crumble.
Some comparisons have been made between her spy and the reigning Brit spy 007, but make no mistake, this is nothing like a Bond picture. While Theron herself may be extremely sexy, this is raw and gritty, with the onscreen violence constant. It’s more like a less successful Sin City.
Recounting the entire mission after it has taken place, you, along with Theron’s Broughton, have no idea who to trust, be it her own shady colleague David Percival (James McAvoy) or a sexy French temptress (Sofia Boutella) with whom she engages in an affair.
The first major film for stunt man-turned-director David Leitch, it shows that Leitch can masterfully construct an action scene, and director of photography Jonathan Sela gives the film a look perfectly suited for industrialist Germany. The script, on the other hand, by Kurt Johnstad, seems to lack any true coherency. Events are loosely tied together with action taking precedent over common sense.
Theron, who displays amazing athleticism in the role, definitely looks the part, although the British accent required for the role falters a time or two.
In addition to Theron, McAvoy and Boutella are also impressive. A believable assemblage of various rogue operatives, including actors Eddie Marsen, Bill Skarsgård, Sam Hargrave and Till Schweiger, round out the participants in the spy games. Toby Jones and John Goodman are equally effective as the intelligence bosses questioning Theron about the mission.
But perhaps the biggest star of the movie is the wall-to-wall soundtrack of new wave, pop and punk hits from the 80s. The never ending auditory assault includes “Personal Jesus,” “Under Pressure,” 99 Luftbaloons,” “Killer Queen,” “Major Tom,” and “Der Kommisar.” It also happens to be the third movie to put David Bowie’s Cat People theme, “Putting Out the Fire,” to good use. More than one moviegoer exiting the Orlando advance screening singled out the music as their favorite part of the film. Leaves a lot to say for the film itself.
In a dryer period of action films, Atomic Blonde may have filled the niche. But with Baby Driver and Dunkirk both in the multiplexes right now, Atomic Blonde just feels like an afterthought.
The Good: The actors are impressive, with Theron’s athleticism out of this world.
The Bad: Even with all the action, at times things are too drawn out and just a little dull.
Final Word: It looks great and contains some good acting, but in the end, it’s not all that atomic.
Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones. Directed by David Leitch.
Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity.