ReelBob: ‘Atomic Blonde’ ★★
By Bob Bloom
The action sequences and fight choreography are what keep “Atomic Blonde” afloat.
But the film’s spy-craft plotline does not coagulate with the Jason Bourne-John Wick-inspired fight scenes.
The movie, based on the graphic novel, “The Coldest City,” takes place mostly in East and West Berlin on the eve of the collapse of the Wall and the beginning of the end of the Cold War.
The film is told in flashback through the perspective of British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron), who is sent to the divided city to retrieve “The List,” which contains information on supposedly every spy and secret agent working for the major powers.
This MacGuffin gives its owner the ability to unmask any spy opposing whatever nation possesses the list.
“Atomic Blonde” is helmed by David Leitch, who was an uncredited co-director on “John Wick” and has worked as a second unit director, action choreographer, stunt coordinator and fight designer on dozens of films including “Captain America: Civil War,” “Jurassic World,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “The Mechanic.”
The movie contains all the tropes of the spy drama — double dealings, dual identities and plot twists and turns which, in this case, seem convoluted and unnecessary.
“Atomic Blonde” is more about style than substance. Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad emphasize camera angles and costumes over character and story.
The film is very physical with great hand-to-hand fight sequences that may make you wince.
But they are merely a showcase for Theron’s prowess as an action star, following her impressive turn in “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Theron is the nominal star of the film, but her screen time is so crowded with other performers that it’s difficult for her to stand out.
She does make the most of her physical abilities, defeating every man pitted against her.
If only she could have done the same with the plot.
The main premise of the movie — that no one can be trusted — is such a duh! idea that it fails to sustain “Blonde’s” 115-minute running time.
Costar James McAvoy is all attitude and poses, with no depth of character. He is a one-trick pony, continually lighting cigarettes with the aid of camera angles that make him look cool and/or dangerous.
The film’s payoff is a disappointment and a letdown, and, frankly, is not worth all the effort that came before it.
The movie cannot sustain itself or live up to its title.
“Atomic Blonde” is not a bomb; it’s more of a dud. What should have been cinematic fireworks instead is a series of colorful sparklers.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
2 stars out of 4
(R), strong and graphic violence, language, nudity, sexual content