Charlize Theron is a take no prisoner’s bad ass in Focus Features Atomic Blonde, based on the Oni Press graphic novel series The Coldest City. Set during the Cold War, to a killer New Wave soundtrack, Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a tough as nails undercover MI6 agent, sent to Berlin to find out why her fellow agents are being murdered. Directed by David Leitch, who previously helmed the first John Wick, Atomic Blonde gives Theron a chance to display the action heroine vibe we first saw from her in Mad Max: Fury Road. Theron is up to the task and does well as the lead. However, the script by Kurt Johnstad doesn’t do much regarding the narrative.
Johnstad, who previously wrote the 2012 Navy Seal drama, Act of Valor and the 300 films, doesn’t do as well as adapting this medium to the screen. Whenever there wasn’t any action going on in the movie, it tends to drag. Maybe if they trimmed a good thirty minutes from its run time, I might have enjoyed the film a bit more. Given his previous success with a graphic novel adaption (300), I expected a bit more with this story. In any genre, a weak narrative can make or break a film, no matter how talented your cast is. The usually reliable James McAvoy in the role of David Percival, Broughton’s contact who may know more than he leads on has a throwaway role.
McAvoy gives off the vibe that he made this movie strictly for a paycheck. Sofia Boutella, who was great in the summer’s “The Mummy” isn’t given much to do, other than eye candy and a love interest for Broughton. The supporting cast does what they can though as, Bill Skarsgard does some impressive work, while John Goodman & Toby Jones both provide their usual character actor work as Lorraine’s handlers.
Atomic Blonde isn’t a total waste though, as the film does deliver on the action front. Unlike her role as the big bad in this past spring’s eighth entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, Theron kicks all kind of butt in Atomic Blonde. Leitch still knows how to get the best of his actors when it comes to the choreography of a fight scene or action sequence. One particular fight scene in the film’s third act, where Theron takes on two henchmen, is an endless barge of kicks and punches that had me smiling ear to ear the entire time. Not only is that fight scene one of the best action sequences of 2017, but it will also be worth the price of admission alone for action junkies.
Despite having impressive action sequences and SURPRISING plot twists, Atomic Blonde was a letdown. Theron, while good in the lead role, deserves better, and director Leitch is capable of better. With a shorter running time and a stronger script, Atomic Blonde could have become an action classic; instead, the film will likely be forgotten by the masses in a few months.
FINAL GRADE: C