Theron shines in Atomic Blonde, despite a messy plot
Atomic Blonde has a messy Cold War-era espionage plot that would not have worked at all had it not been for two things — Charlize Theron, and a host of crisply choreographed action sequences.
Following physically demanding roles in Mad Max: Fury Road and Fast & Furious 8, Theron consolidates her reputation as the toughest heroine of the new millennium.
In a plot based on the graphic novel The Coldest City, the Oscar-winning actress (Monster) plays a British spy on assignment in Berlin.
It’s 1989 and the Wall, which for nearly three decades demarcated East and West Berlin, is on the verge of demolition. In an atmosphere rife with deception and betrayals, it’s hard to distinguish friend from foe.
But she must use her very specific set of combat skills to vanquish a horde of arch-villains and retrieve a stolen microfilm that contains a list of names of undercover agents on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Theron displays balletic grace in the estrogen-fuelled fight scenes. At 42, she demonstrates that she can still trade punches with the best of them.
The film’s piece-de-resistance is a bruising, no-holds-barred encounter that begins in the living room of an apartment, carries on down flights of stairs and culminates in a car chase on the streets outside.
On the downside, the A-list supporting cast, which includes John Goodman, Toby Jones and Sofia Boutella as American, British and French intelligence agents respectively, is underutilised.
James McAvoy, who was so impressive in Split, is way over the top as the Berlin-based British agent who has “gone native”. To see veteran German actress Barbara Sukowa reduced to the bit role of a morgue functionary is just disheartening.
The soundtrack of era-specific pop tunes (Queen, David Bowie, George Michael, among others) doesn’t complement the action as effectively as it did in the recent Baby Driver.
Even with Theron’s considerable contribution, director David Leitch’s first solo feature is, all in all, an above-average action genre flick.