'Atomic Blonde' review: Charlize Theron action movie sacrifices substance for style

39;Atomic Blonde'

Atomic Blonde

The neon-tinged look of "Atomic Blonde" and its constant soundtrack of 1980s electro-pop anthems like Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and New Order's "Blue Monday" give the film a place among the pantheon of modern action movies reaching for that Michael Mann aesthetic.

Directed by David Leitch (who was an uncredited director on John Wick), the film expertly melds a cat and mouse mystery/thriller with the aforementioned fights to create something that elevates it above a simple action flick. This is not that movie.

Atomic Blonde is released in United Kingdom cinemas on August 9, 2017. First of all, this Charlize Theron vehicle finally provides us with a more extended fight scene than the seems-like-forever fisticuffs we endured between Roddy Piper and Keith David in John Carpenter's creepy, dystopian nightmare loved, loathed and called They Live. And there's a decent chance you'll see the big twist coming. "I've got your shoe!" - makes the decision to frequently split them up as frenemies most unfortunate. Sure, there are a few scenes that mimic the Wickian freneticism, but those are merely the chewy center of this spy treat. Based on The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, the film follow Theron's MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent to East Berlin just when the Berlin Wall is about to be torn down, and assigned to track down and apprehend a list of every undercover agent working for the CIA, MI6, and the KGB. With the identities and lives of her colleagues on the line, Lorraine partners up with Berlin station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), but his erratic behavior immediately draws her suspicion. The world that they understood of lies and secrets and untruths and backstabbing, which was their truth, was about to be shattered and the world is about to experience something great.

For Theron, Atomic Blonde firmly re-establishes her action hero credentials after her astonishing turn in Mad Max: Fury Road. The movie treats this as no different from the many outings where James Bond seduces a attractive woman as part of the mission, and for a popcorn thriller, this is quite enlightened.

Charlize Theron pulls off her own stunts while portraying a top MI6 spy tasked with taking down a threat during the final days of the Berlin Wall. No one knows, but it seems like her thing now.

These losers are dispatched to terminate Lorraine, and they all fall down - down stairs from her gut-punches; down the street when she beats a man with her high heel and kicks him from the auto; down forever in those occasions that she can reach her firearm before being attacked. In an age of indestructible superheroes, Broughton is completely mortal. "I think she could beat the shit out of me and most villains out there-not saying I'm a villain". Broughton never quite knows whether or not to trust him or his motives, and neither do we, but he's a joy to watch as an ode to excess and New Wave stylings. DeFore's take of the film can be summed up in one of the icons, "Which is the one that looks like swirled soft-serve chocolate ice cream?" he writes in his review.

No, the weakness of this film doesn't fall at Theron's Louboutined feet. Framed as one long flashback, as Lorraine is grilled in a London debriefing room by her superior officer (Toby Jones) and a Central Intelligence Agency observer (John Goodman), the overly confusing story also tries to gin up suspense with a subplot about the unmasking of a double agent named Satchel.

It's not a ideal film by any measure, but Atomic Blonde still manages to be fun and entertaining despite its flaws. Leitch's camera does bounce around, but it never wavers from its subject. Slick and stylish, Atomic Blonde is escapism at its finest and more than worth a couple of hours of your attention.

Atomic Blonde is in theaters now.

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