Charlize Theron was a model who made the leap into acting in film with such success that she has a Best Actress Oscar to her name. But modelling is all about a look and Atomic Blonde, based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, is ideally suited to a former model. Theron plays Lorraine Broughton a ludicrously attractive, hyper style conscious yet undercover MI6 agent. It’s about as credible as top secret agent James Bond whose name is known by every barman in the world.
The film takes the form of a series of flashbacks as she is interrogated by her bosses, a sombre Toby Jones and his US counterpart John Goodman as they take her account of her mission to Berlin at the time of the fall of the wall as she went to recover a missing list of double agents and extract a former Stassi agent ( Eddie Marsan). In many ways its story is not dissimilar to ‘Skyfall’ including one set piece where Theron and a villain battle against a neon lit background.
What follows is a string of expertly orchestrated action set pieces hardly surprising when you consider that director David Leitch worked on John Wick as an uncredited director. A former stuntman his films included The Bourne Legacy , The Bourne Ultimatum, X- Men Origins, 300 & Matrix Revolutions so his credentials on the action front are impeccable as indeed are the set pieces here.
Berlin is on the eve of the wall being pulled down (with a sly reference to David Hasselhoff being in town on the night its pulled down) and it captures the look of the city well. It’s sense of time is set from the start and throughout with a decent 80’s soundtrack with New Order’s iconic Blue Monday firmly setting the period of the piece and there are some great 80’s tracks that have been criminally overlooked by the movies in the past but are thankfully used here including tracks such as Siouxsee and the Banshee’s ,City’s in Dust.
After playing opposite Angelina Jolie in Wanted James McAvoy lands on his feet again here and plays Theron’s Berlin counterpart and together they endeavour to extract Marsan form Berlin as they are pursued by all manner of brutally vicious villains resulting in some spectacularly bloody set pieces the best of which is Theron protecting Marsan from an onslaught of thugs in a building. She fights shoots, stabs, kicks and batters her way through them from a room down several flights of stairs into a car for a high speed chase all in one long continuous shot (though its actually several cleverly stitched together). It’s a bravura sequence expertly choreographed and ironically set to A Flock of Seagulls track, ‘I Ran’ as they drive away.
This plays like a female version of John Wick and Theron goes from her usual drop dead gorgeous look to being battered, bruised and bloody yet still looks great. This is sheer comic book entertainment which panders to that sort of adolescent male mentality even thowing in a wholly gratuitous lesbian love scene for little other reason than a bit of….um….titilation. The level of violence is comic book daft with Theron at the receiving end of a right battering which no one would easily walk away from yet here the hard drinking, heavy smoking blonde bombshell needs only an ice bath to enable her recovery. After the action seen here some viewers may well need the same.
Here’s the trailer…..