Review of "Atomic Blonde"
By Mark Greczmiel
Every so often a movie comes along that raises the bar when it comes to action films. "The Matrix" was certainly one of those and so was the first "John Wick" movie which amped up fight sequences to a whole new level. Veteran stuntman and stunt coordinator David Leitch directed some those sequences for "Wick" and was rewarded by getting the chance to call all the shots for "Atomic Blonde," a high-action story set against the 1989 collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Charlize Theron stars as Lorraine Broughton, a British MI-6 agent sent to the divided city after another British agent is murdered by the Russians. She's looking for the killer as well as a top secret list of undercover agents. The movie is told in flashbacks, as she's interrogated by her superiors at the conclusion of the mission.
Theron plays one of the best-dressed spies in movie history with a dazzling array of outfits. Plus, she's incredibly proficient with weapons and hand-to-hand combat. She's very smooth at taking one of her stylish designer shoes and using it to pummel one of the many bad guys that are crawling about East Berlin.
The acting abilities of this Oscar-winner have never been in question but some might wonder if the forty-one-year-old would be able to handle the incredible physical demands of the role. It would be an easy thing to swap in a stunt double to do all the heavy lifting, but it wouldn't make the action as convincing. Rest assured: It's all Theron for a number of extended sequences in which she fights off multiple assailants. These scenes are very impressive because the action doesn't rely on lots of quick cuts - the fights are more carefully choreographed and while often very brutal - they are stunning to watch. Director Leitch certainly knows his way around a combat scene as well as a car chase. (He's now helming the second "Deadpool" film)
The film is based on the graphic novel - "The Coldest City" with a script by Kurt Johnstad who also wrote "300" and "Act of Valor." The story moves along at a good clip, boosted by wonderful art design that re-creates the pre-reunification look of East Berlin, complete with the infamous "no man's land" near Bradenburg Gate where so many died trying to flee to freedom. The filmmakers managed to scrounge up enough working Russian Lada cars and old East German Trabants to really transport the viewer back to the 1980's.
The cast also includes James McAvoy who is sometimes a bit annoying as a rogue British agent who calls Berlin his home turf. His performance could have been toned down a bit. Sofia Boutella ("The Mummy" and "Star Trek Beyond") plays a French spy who gets extremely close to Theron's character. Roland Moller is a stand-out as the brutal Russian villain. Sadly, there's one actor who was under-utilized in the film. The wonderful John Goodman plays a top CIA official who really isn't given a whole lot to do. Too bad.
Story-wise, " the movie does get somewhat convoluted near the end with a barrage of crosses and double-crosses that get a little confusing before the filmmakers finally put a nice bow on everything.
The verdict: "Atomic Blonde" is a very violent film that's not for the squeamish. But it's also a first-rate action film that delivers.
3 ½ popcorn boxes out of 4
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