Charlize Theron is great, but 'Atomic Blonde' fizzles

Charlize Theron is great, but 'Atomic Blonde' fizzles

Charlize Theron is great, but 'Atomic Blonde' fizzles

War for the Planet of the Apes does it with monkeys; can't we ask as much of Charlize? Her response was along the lines of, "Well, you know, let Daniel Craig or Idris Elba play James Bond, but Lorraine is someone who can stand alongside him in that same space".

Anything Jason Bourne can do, the "Atomic Blonde" can also do, and she does it in heels. Technically, it's his first film in which he is actually being credited (he is uncredited for his work on the first John Wick). Most of the "action" happens in a film cabinet, down a back alley or with a silencer. Both look great beating up or shooting antagonists in director David Leitch's (John Wick) action movies, but her less-than-ergonomic footwear makes her on-screen hand-to-hand combat seem more impressive.

On a purely visceral level, "Atomic Blonde" is a masterful piece of cinema. There is a plot, involving a British spy (Theron) coming to Berlin to track down a list of double agents being brought into the West, in the final moments preceding the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Based on Antony Johnston's 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, it's a Cold War thriller about an undercover MI6 agent sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent.

The bottom-line: Skip it unless you're a hardcore action fan.

. Now that was a goddamned fight scene. In some places, Atomic Blonde tries a little too hard to embrace the twisty nature of espionage films, ultimately coming across as too convoluted for its own good. James McAvoy, John Goodman and Eddie Marsan take up far too much screen time as mystery men who circle Lorraine, and keep on circling until intrigue gives way to monotony. Occasionally, the story exists to take us from one Charlize-Theron-being-world-weary-and-hesitant-to-be-connected-to-another-human-being moment to the next, which also tend to be enjoyable.

Director David Leitch, a former stuntman who helmed the Keanu Reeves-starring revenge action hit "John Wick", delivers the brutal, highly stylized goods again. Or hell, it is most likely on people like me that see the trailer for Atomic Blonde and dismiss it until I see a brief flash of Sofia Boutella and Charlize Theron in bed together. Kurt Johnstad's script, adapted from The Coldest City graphic novel series, develops side characters seemingly at random. Atomic Blonde, on the other hand, knows exactly how to approach the idea of a "Female James Bond" spy action-thriller, creating a uniquely fun and sly femme-action experience, guaranteed to thrill audiences.

"[We] just wanted this spy aspect of this story to have as many surprises as possible - not insane surprises, but things that were real on a human level", she said, dismissing other spy movie backstories as old hat. It runs 115 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. Leitch clears his throat with a sequence where Lorraine fends off two assailants inside a moving auto, using the business end of a red high-heeled shoe as her weapon of choice. Delving deeper into it, one could see that the character's role is somewhat mirroring her own strength in real life. Have you ever seen what professional fighters look like after 10 straight minutes of fighting? It's not an unfamiliar plot, but Atomic Blonde's edgy style, breathlessly kinetic action sequences and Theron's mix of irresistible glamour and implacable brutality set it apart from-and above-other recent entries in the genre. In defining Atomic Blonde I struggle to say whether it is a mystery/thriller with superb action scenes or an action film with a central mystery attached.

It's not that all the mayhem leading up to THAT mega-brawl is negligible, mind you, it's just that the BIG donnybrook/shootout in this thing is epic and worth putting up with all the narrative wool-fathering which is a bit closer to tedious than it ought to have been.

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