ATOMIC BLONDE detonates solely through the presence, panache and punch-power of Mistress Charlize Theron, who does more than her part in ending the Cold War in 1989 East Berlin by convincingly kicking the living scheisse out of half the KGB agents west of the Volga.
Our Girl (who for some reason is ignoring my calls), with her acting chops, killer style and very impressive fighting flair is far and away the best thing in this otherwise dour, dreary and overlong 2017 sexpionage outing, which alternates bone-crunching action with bone-tired dialog drained of vitality.
Kurt Johnstad’s profanity-laced (insert snoring sound over lazy applications of the hardy f-word), cheer-absent, care-about-no-one screenplay is yet another based on a graphic novel (“The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston). How many movies based on looking for microfilm have there been and how many were fascinating? Now, set one 30 years back in bummer grey locales and have characters you don’t care about try to make it seem fresh.
Shooting in Budapest, Berlin and London, director David Leitch certainly manages the hand-to-hand combat showpieces like a pissed-off Spartan (he logged dozens of credits as stuntman, stunt coordinator and 2nd-unit director), but other than Theron’s sleek walkabouts (her stride gets ample stridation time) and a hot but too-brief girl-girl fling thrown in to help keep you awake between fights, he duds out with the supporting cast. John Goodman and Toby Jones, playing Theron’s CIA and MI-6 overlords, are fine actors, but Leitch has them dial things down to the point you want to reach for the Walther PPK (I think I put it next to the Stoli’s). The deadening tone seems to be mimicking those dull-as-church “serious” espionage items from the post-Goldfinger 60s, crawlers that were supposed to chasten Bond and just made everyone wish for his next one to hurry up and get there. Main co-star James McEvoy plays the turnoff creep who f-bombs every other word and aids the script to further kill his interpretation by insisting on the “trait” of constantly smoking cigarettes, one of the laziest bits of “business” an actor can indulge in. Maybe Sean Penn smuggled him a trainload from Bulgaria. One thing is for sure—you will not give the slightest of damns.
High-calorie bi-play subplot (sans substance) gets a too-quick workover with French-Algerian pastry Sofia Boutella (wicked fun as ‘Gazelle’ in Kingsman: The Secret Service), who makes a suitably lithe hookup for the when-in-Berlin heroine. Time for a guy-to-guy talk with the editor. Anyway, on to what really works: those smashingly choreographed fight sequences. Here, Leitch, his roster of 13 assorted assistant or 2nd-unit directors and their battalion of stunt guys and gals earn their bruised and battered end of the $30,000,000 outlay. Theron gives Angelina Jolie in Salt and Gina Carano in Haywire a gauntlet run for the blood money. Not that we needed further proof after Mad Max: Fury Road, but this daunting damsel doesn’t do distress: she delivers damage.
Sulking about between the bracing body blows and boring bloviating: Eddie Marsan, Til Schweiger, James Faulkner, Bill Skarsgård, Roland Møller and Barbara Sukowa. It scored with audiences, grossing $100,000,000 and is primed for a sequel. I just hope to hell they take Charlize and her baditude to some place with a better climate and more alluring architecture in which to vent her freedom-isn’t-free skill-set on the fodder minions of the less-developed. Maybe she can meet John Wick and Jack Reacher and together they can save us from the real-life shitstorms whirled up by their Langley & London ringmasters. 115 minutes.