July 27, 2017

CINEMA | Charlize Theron Detonates 'Atomic Blonde'

Charlize Theron David Leitch | Atomic Blonde

John Wick co-director David Leitch, also a former stuntman and coordinator, brings his brand of hard-boiled action to 1989 Berlin just days before the fall of the Wall with Charlize Theron (also a producer) starring as one kick-ass MI6 British agent in the exhilarating but incomprehensible Atomic Blonde. Based on the Antony Johnston graphic novel, The Coldest City, the film is a retro style remix of contemporary action films with plenty of flash to spare.

As Lorraine Broughton, Theron is icy cool revelling in such a physical role that exploits of all her skills and best assets. Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad make the overly confusing spectacle almost a ratcheted up female-driven mashup of campier James Bond stories of the past with its grittier more recent fare in terms of filmmaking and action.

The mostly European cast makes the ridiculous yet violent affair all the more entertaining. A boisterous James McAvoy hams it up relishing his broad performance as the loose cannon Berlin station chief. Sofia Boutella is sexy cool but somewhat superfluous as a rival French agent in over her head. Leitch further populates his alternate, retro cool 1989 Berlin with fine character actors like John GoodmanToby JonesEddie Marsan and Til Schweiger as her various handlers and aids.

Charlize Theron Sophia Batella David Leitch | Atomic Blonde

All the vapid characters, gratuitous nudity, in-your-face 1980s references, and on-the-nose diegetic soundtrack are worth it for the all-timer, single-take action scene midway through that's both mesmerizing and horrifying in its brutal execution of hand-to-hand violence. There's so much going on with the usual rogue agents, black market deals, interagency squabbling, and story-within-a-story framework to make the non-action scenes incredibly over complicated. Never mind the multitude of double and even triple crosses.

The balance of messy yet intriguing Cold War era allegiances and over-the-top, brutal violence doesn't quite mesh throughout, but Leitch's style almost overcomes the lack of substance. Cinematographer Jonathan Sela makes East and West Berlin look period appropriately glamorous and seedy all at once.

Full of neon, Leitch's brand of stylish action and loud filmmaking mostly works despite a needlessly complex narrative structure mocking its own ultra convoluted plot. Theron is a a perfect vessel and combination of talent mixed with pure sex appeal to make Atomic Blonde a fun and slick cinematic ride. It is beautiful non-sense.


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