Who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned, no-frills, spy-thriller that also doubles up as a no-holds-barred action movie? Throw in Charlize Theron (who seems to be going on an action movie spree of late) as the butt-kicking platinum blonde superspy lead character, and you’ve got a movie that’s bound to go, well, atomic.
Based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City, Atomic Blonde is set in 1989 on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
British MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve a list that could compromise and expose secret agents from both sides of the Cold War conflict.
Her contact is the reckless and slightly unhinged Berlin station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), who has spent so much time in the city that he has “gone native”.
Together, they have to contend with Russian agents, German mobsters, an elusive and mysterious double agent named Satchel and a city that is a burning powder keg about to explode.
This is a movie where the action rules. When things quiet down, it starts to get a little awkward.
The relentless action bears comparison with the John Wick films (Atomic Blonde director David Leitch had a hand in directing the first one), but the story and script just aren’t strong (or self-aware) enough to sustain a prolonged period of inaction the way that Keanu Reeves franchise does.
Despite the numerous double- and triple-crosses, the central plot is a little too flimsy to sustain its almost two-hour runtime.
Then again, you probably won’t be watching Atomic Blonde for its story, would you?
Theron is no stranger to action movies, of course, having played the titular female hero in sci-fi actioner Aeon Flux in 2005, Furiousa in Mad Max: Fury Road and the villain in this year’s Fast And Furious 8.
Here, she ups the action ante, mixing three parts James Bond, six parts John Wick, one part Furiousa, and shaking up one sexy, smooth and suitably deadly Lorraine Molotov cocktail.
From a slickly choreographed fight in which she uses a rope to get the upper hand over her attackers and swing down to safety to a bloody, brutal, bruising battle near the end, the action sequences seem to get progressively more violent and unrestrained as the movie goes along, and Theron gamely plows through each and every one of them.
Theron aside, McAvoy manages to steal a little bit of the limelight as the sleazy but cunning Percival. But other supporting characters – Sofia Boutella’s Delphine included – are less interesting.
You might even struggle to figure out what the names of the villains are, as everything just blurs into one long continuous fight scene.
Still, who cares, really? The villains are just fodder for the Atomic Blonde Cannon that is Lorraine Broughton. And that’s all you should be expecting from this movie anyway.
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones