Atomic Blonde
dir David Leitch
scr Kurt Johnstad
prd Charlize Theron, Beth Kono, AJ Dix, Kelly McCormick, Eric Gitter, Peter Schwerin
with Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Til Schweiger, Roland Moller, James Faulkner, Sam Hargrave, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Barbara Sukowa
release US 28.Jul.17, UK 9.Aug.17
17/US Focus 1h55
Atomic Blonde
Behind the wall: Theron and McAvoy

goodman boutella marsan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Atomic Blonde Buckets of visual style, steely energy and expertly choreographed action make this film worth a look for anyone who loves mindless action chaos. But the lack of proper characters or a gripping story leaves it feeling oddly vacuous, especially when it tries to push an emotional moment. The main issue is a script that simply never cracks the surface.

From 1989 London, top spy Lorraine (Theron) travels to Germany just as the Berlin Wall is coming down to find out who killed her fellow agent James (Hargrave) and discover what happened to a list of agents he was carrying. Her contact is David (McAvoy), an operative who has perhaps gone a little too far undercover as a contraband-dealing goon in the east.In addition to encounters with a nervous Stasi operative (Marsan) and a ruthless KGB boss (Moller), she also hooks up, in every sense of the word, with French spy Delphine (Boutella).

The web of intrigue isn't quite as tangled as it seems, but the filmmakers gleefully play the spy nonsense for all its worth, cutting in and out of the story as Lorraine recounts it to MI6 and CIA directors (Jones and Goodman, respectively). Every scene veers wildly off course, leading to chases and battles, including a climactic sequence shot as a single long take that's so brutal that by the end Theron looks like she was run over by a truck.

Theron throws herself into the role, bringing out details that add to the mystery but never reveal much about Lorraine. In other words, she's convincing as a secret agent, and it's refreshing that director Leitch lets her and her opponents show the physical cost of every punch. McAvoy has fun with his slippery role, and Boutella injects a bit of soulful longing, but the openly jittery Marsan is the only person we actually care about.

Adapted from the graphic novel series The Coldest City, the movie is given a vivid 80s vibe from neon-heavy design to the iconic songs on the soundtrack. The Cold War setting in a still-divided Berlin is relatively underused, feeling like little more than an excuse for quite a lot of vicious fistfights and destructive car pursuits. And Johnstad's script strangely never mines any present-day resonance from the story, ignoring subtext in lieu of another threatening confrontation or violent attack. In other words, it looks cool and it's as cold as ice.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 3.Aug.17

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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall