‘Atomic Blonde’ is sexy, ass-kicking fun

July 28 08:19 2017

It’s just that with something like Atomic Blonde as evidence of what she can do as an action film star, Theron doesn’t need to attach herself to an aging, largely insufferable franchise.

I must say I liked the three successive switcheroo endings too.

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. For Leitch, the film gives him the chance to tell a certain kind of story he’s wanted to explore and also push the action to new levels, including an eight-minute, one-take sequence – that has to be seen to be believed – in which Broughton fights a procession of killers in an abandoned building and in the streets.

Which won’t surprise anyone when you discover that the director of this baby is David Leitch, a stunt man and stunt coordinator who was an uncredited co-director of the action cult favorite “John Wick“. The MI6, led by Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and Chief C (James Faulkner) dispatch their top-level spy Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to Berlin with a special mission.

Theron does all her own stunts, creating superb action scenes that are cinematic eye candy, but look like torture for the actors.

Framed as one long flashback, as Broughton 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 sub-plot about the unmasking of a double agent named Satchel. This form of storytelling, of course, can result in some potentially unreliable narration. With the help from Delphine Lasalle (Sofia BoutellaThe Mummy, Star Trek Beyond, Kingsman: The Secret Service), a French undercover agent, they get closer to finding out who has been setting them up. But as she begins to delve deeper into the mystery of the list, she begins to uncover layer upon layer of deception, until it’s unclear what anyone’s motives are. The way it detonates off the screen makes the film live up to its name. The end result are kinetic and frenzied action sequences that never let things rest, until the action is done, and the assailants are dead, disarmed, or severly beaten down. This is still an action movie first. Theron’s breakthrough in the genre (she was one of the highlights of the stunning “Mad Max: Fury Road“) continues to pay dividends.

Speaking of physical, the best parts of Atomic Blonde are the fight scenes.

She can demolish a veritable army of goons wielding automatic weapons and switchblade knives by punching and kicking them into oblivion.

The moment Lorraine sets foot in Berlin, however, things go sideways. He exudes an easy charm that belies his hidden agenda. There’s little tension, the plot feels meaningless, and for the most part the characters are too tiresome to care about regardless of their suspenseful situations.

Meanwhile, Goodman, a welcome addition to almost any film, steals the few scenes that he is in. With the list out in the open available to the highest bidder, Broughton enters a fight for her life, trying to survive so she can prevent catastrophic consequences from happening. Leitch brings that inventiveness to Atomic Blonde, which he directed solo, and while the set pieces are as exciting as one would expect, not enough attention is paid to the story. This is because decades of movie tropes have conditioned us to reflexively read such imagery as visual shortcuts for “victim to be felt bad for” rather than “total bad-ass who just won a huge fight”.

But in the end, despite Theron’s herculean efforts, “Atomic Blonde” mostly feels like a mash-up of every “Bourne” movie and VH1’s “I Love the ’80s”. You know, the Atomic Blonde universe is its own universe.

James Mc Avoy and Charlize Theron star in the film “Atomic Blonde.”

‘Atomic Blonde’ is sexy, ass-kicking fun
 
 
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