By/Por Pete Hammond, DEADLINE HOLLYWOOD, Special for LWR
Move over Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson, there’s a new kickass woman ready to deliver a knockout punch to any man in her way. In the spirit of female action-driven movies like Lucy, Wanted, Salt and La Femme Nikita comes Atomic Blonde. Of course Charlize Theron, recently in Mad Max and to a much lesser extent in The Fate Of The Furious, has displayed a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude in proving she can serve up this kind of entertainment as well as any male actor out there. Atomic Blonde exists as a “vehicle” for Theron (who also was a producer), but she is firing on all cylinders here, proving blondes not only have more fun, they have more guns — and know how to use them.
Lovingly photographed in vivid close ups that alternately show her bruised and beautiful — and sometimes both at the same time — Theron plays an MI6 spy named Lorraine Broughton sent on a mission to Berlin in the late 1980s, right as the wall is about to come down. She has been sent there by her superiors to ferret out an espionage ring, mostly Russian, who have killed an important undercover agent. Also, there is the mission of retrieving a “list” (in this kind of movie there is always a list) that contains names of double agents.
In Berlin she is reluctantly teamed with wild man David Percival (James McAvoy), a British agent who is the Berlin Station Chief, but she is clearly not on the same page with this guy. The ideal pair this isn’t, and it gets more complicated as the film throws one monkey wrench after another into the works. It also takes a side trip into her intriguing relationship with a French operative (Sofia Boutella) with whom she not only goes undercover, but under covers in hot scenes providing action of another sort — or as I say in my video review above, something that makes Blue Is The Warmest Color look like Captain Underpants.
The plot gets pretty ludicrous with stereotyped villains that basically serve as an excuse for the next martial arts-infused blowout between Lorraine and a cadre of evil, heavily accented men who can’t seem to beat her. She outlasts them all in director David Leitch’s meticulously staged action scenes, the best of which goes on for about 10 minutes and, if you are a fan of this sort of thing, is worth the price of admission. Leitch is also a stuntman and clearly knows what he’s doing here. Theron did the majority of stunts herself, and it shows as Leitch refuses to cheat angles that would clearly indicate when the star was sitting the action out. She is thoroughly believable in this mode, and constantly showing off her bruises — especially in scenes where she dives into bathtubs filled with ice cubes to ease the pain from what is just another day at the office.
Others in the film include John Goodman and Toby Jones, who appear as superiors interviewing Lorraine about the Berlin mission after the fact. This is a framing device and is used throughout to explain the plot to action fans who might be hard-pressed to understand what is going on otherwise. It seems too convenient, and takes some tension away as we know she survived most of the film’s set pieces. At least up to that point.
Kurt Johnstad wrote the script, which is based on the graphic novel series The Coldest City. A.J. Dix, Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin, Beth Kono, Kelly McCormick and Theron produced the Focus Features release (which is actually being marketed by mothership Universal). It opens Friday.