by Hope Madden
Charlize Theron is a convincing badass. (You saw Fury Road, right?) She cuts an imposing figure and gives (and takes) a beating with panache.
Director David Leitch understands action, having cut his teeth as a stunt double before moving on to choreographing and coordinating action for the last decade. With the help of a wicked soundtrack and about a million costume changes, he also makes 1989 seem cool – which is a real feat.
Together, Theron and Leitch take on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s graphic novel The Coldest City, under the far more rockin’ title Atomic Blonde.
It’s Berlin in ’89. The wall’s about to come down, the Cold War’s coming to an end, but there’s this pesky double agent issue to contend with, and a list of coverts that has fallen into the wrong hands. MI6 sends in one lethal operative, Lorraine Broughton (Theron), to check in with their embedded agent Percival (James McAvoy) and work things out.
What to expect: intrigue, Bowie songs, boots – so many boots! – and a great deal of Charlize Theron beating up on people. Mayhem of the coolest sort.
From the opening car crash through half a dozen other expertly choreographed set pieces to the action pièce de résistance, Theron and Leitch make magic happen. Each sequence outshines the one before, leading up to a lengthy, multi-villain escapade shot as if in one extremely lengthy take. (It isn’t, but the look is convincing and the execution thrilling.)
Theron delivers. Reliable as ever, McAvoy is once again that guy you don’t know whether to love or hate – probably because he always looks like he’s smiling and crying simultaneously. He makes for a wild and dicey counterpoint to Theron’s sleek, ultra cool presence.
Precise and percussive, the action propels this film. Leitch’s cadence outside these sequences sometimes stalls, and not every casting choice works out.
Sofia Boutella, saddled with an underdeveloped character who makes idiotic choices, suffers badly in the role. Other supporting characters, though – including the always welcome Toby Jones and John Goodman – take better advantage of their limited time onscreen.
The storyline itself is equal parts convoluted and obvious, with far too many conveniences to hold up as a real spy thriller. But unplug, soak up that Berlin vibe and appreciate the action and you’ll do fine.