When you first see Charlize Theron, a badass woman is probably not the first thing that crosses your mind. That outlook has officially changed. After her fierce turn in Mad Max: Fury Road and a stellar villain role earlier this year in The Fate of the Furious, the Oscar-winning actress has slowly become Hollywood’s go-to badass heroine. Her new beat-down 80’s noir, Atomic Blonde, continues this trend and solidifies her place in the action drama. Too bad everything around her couldn’t be as polished.
Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent, who is sent undercover during the Cold War to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing dossier out of the destabilized city before the Russians get their hands on it. To help her navigate through this game of spies is embedded station chief, David Percival (James McAvoy), but Broughton is plagued by the question of who to trust.
This pulpy Cold War thriller is loaded with music from the 80’s with raves and parties as the movie flips between the divided Berlin as the wall enters its final stages before being torn down, and comes across as a wild roller-coaster ride of trust issues among spies and quickly placed double crosses. Unlike another fictional MI6 spy of cinema, Lorraine is not a “delicate” person. She is a blunt instrument of violence with platinum bangs. The chorography of the fight scenes Theron was involved in were brutal, showing her commitment to the role and to taking a beating. Theron’s shining moment is her own Daredevil-esque “hallway scene” as she battles burly and tough men in a stairway brawl.
James McAvoy is having a wild-eyed blast as David Percival, displaying a rough, hard-drinking officer that has adapted to surviving in the chaos that was Berlin. Sofia Boutella played a beautiful, but inexperienced, French operative that Broughton cares about after a sexy encounter (I had a four-year old sitting a seat away from me with her parents. Trust me, this is not a movie you want a child that young to see!). Her role could have been explored or expanded more, but it’s understandable with the time constraint the director (John Wick‘s David Leitch) was working with. In the third act, the double crosses started coming up too much and felt overstuffed. In the end, Atomic Blonde is an generic exercise in style. But this movie certainly has a lot of it to make up for a less-than-hard-hitting narrative.
A solid film that you’ll have a lot of fun watching as we near summer’s end.