With ‘John Wick’, and now ‘Atomic Blonde’, director David Leitch (who was a stuntman for actor Brad Pitt) has proven himself to be skilled at directing action. Don’t believe me? Look at the way the action sequences in this action-thriller are choreographed. Charlize Theron manages to give and take every blow to and from her adversaries with a Bing! Bang! Boom! Making you feel every hit; injecting you with an adrenaline rush fit for an action movie. In one scene, that takes place in an apartment in West Berlin, MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is escorting a man named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) to safety, when she is confronted by KGB agents, who come one by one as if they are re-spawning video game characters. She starts offing them in a long drawn-out sequence not set to music (almost all action sequences are stylishly set to 80’s New Wave, such as ‘Father Figure’ by the late George Michael, or ’99 Luftballons’ by Nena), albeit not as intense as the church shooting in ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’, there is still a quiet intensity while watching people get stabbed, bloodied, punched, even kicked down the stairs; making it one of the greatest, and well-filmed action sequences.
It isn’t just the action that makes ‘Atomic Blonde’ appealing to the senses. Being that it is set in 1989 during the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall (which makes for a great -if not often used – political set-piece), there is a style that made me feel as if I was popping in a VHS of an 80’s movie; you can see it in its opening credits, which shows Theron walking the streets of East Berlin wearing shades while ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ by the late David Bowie plays. (I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some vintage art of the movie itself.) It is when the story unfolds, and becomes a bit of a mess.
The majority of ‘Atomic Blonde’ takes place through flashback; a story Lorraine tells while being interrogated by John Goodman’s Emmett Kurzfeld and Toby Jones’ Eric Gray. It tends to cut back and forth quite often to the point where it takes a while to figure out what is going on. Elements include a search for a hidden file called “The List”, a team-up with James McAvoy as an eccentric station chief named David Percival, run-ins with a French agent named Delphine (‘Kingsman’s Sofia Boutella), and tons of kickassery! Not to mention, a lot of Charlize Theron eye candy to go around.
As Lorraine, Theron not only kicks ass and takes names, but she fits the role like a glove. I couldn’t imagine anyone else taking the role. McAvoy also does fantastic as Percival! (With ‘Split’ and now ‘Atomic Blonde’, 2017 is really being good to this actor.) But the real star of ‘Atomic Blonde’, however, are its action sequences. When all else seems to fail, and you can’t help but check your watch (‘Atomic Blonde’ can’t figure out where to end.), you can rely on Leitch, who satisfies your craving for violence with each punch and blow.