Atomic Blonde is a cold war spy movie set in Germany about a week before the Berlin Wall comes down in 1989.
The plot is fairly basic -- there's yet another of those ubiquitous "lists" that someone seems to have compiled, of every agent on every side that is working in and around Germany and western Europe. For this movie, the compiler is an East German Stasi agent who wants to trade the list for safe passage for him and his family to the west. And he's made a deal to trade it with MI-6. Problem is the MI-6 agent gets killed and the list is gone. The Brits send Lorraine somethingorother, Charlize Theron, to West Germany to retrieve the fallen agent, retrieve the list, and oh by the way the list has the name and identity of a double agent, code named Satchel, who's been raping MI-6 for information for years and giving it to the Russians and those damn Yanks. So capturing him as well would be nice, but putting a bullet in his head . . . better.
The movie is played out in flashback format via a debrief of Lorraine at MI-6 headquarters where her superiors are implying that something not only went wrong with the mission, something may be very amiss with Lorraine herself.
The movie starts out at full throttle and never lets up with jarring action, wonderful imagery of late 80's West Germany and good twists and turns and double and triple crosses that aren't nearly as obvious as some reviewers (I'm looking right at you Christian Toto) would have you believe. It's well worth the watch, but it's R rated for a reason -- brutal violence, nudity, and a bit of lesbian sex between Theron and Sofia Boutella. Plus enough bad language and that evil cigarette smoking to get puritans on both sides of the political spectrum clutching their pearls in anguish.
But this movie is more than just another action flick for some of us. The director, David Leitch, was the second unit director on the John Wick movies. Which is to say, that he was the guy in charge of the action and stunt sequences of the movie -- basically the parts of those movies that made them such fan favorites.
He's also the guy who is slated to direct the next Deadpool movie. And fans like myself have a vested interest to see how Leitch does with his first turn in the big chair. Answer -- pretty f*cking well.
Besides the overall look of Atomic Blonde -- set design, wardrobe, cinematography and so on, there's a hip atmosphere to the movie and some clever touches that show some style. The soundtrack is all Big 80's from the MTV era and though it is literally too loud in some points, it gave the film the requisite retro touch. You could lose yourself in the time period easily while watching the film.
But it's the action sequences that make this movie, just as in John Wick. Theron never seems to make those endless fanboy lists online of favorite female action stars, and I never understand why. Sigourney Weaver had about 10 minutes of tough girl action in the second Alien movie and she's on the top of everyone's pedestal for action goddess. Theron's been getting it done for years on screen in numerous roles and simply doesn't seem to get the fanboy love she deserves. Go figure.
And she continues here. In interviews, Leitch said he wanted the action brutal and unapologetic and he delivered that in spades. Theron doesn't just dish out the punishment, she gets the sh*t beat out of her as well. Plenty of times. In fact, another of the things I like about her is that despite her jaw dropping beauty, she doesn't need to look like a runway model on screen at all times. See her portrayal in the last Mad Max movie for proof. Find another current female star that would have accepted that look on screen.
Charlize may start the flashback looking great, but by the time the debrief occurs, she's literally covered in bruises, her hands are bruised with tape over her knuckles, she's sporting a split lip and a black eye with a contact lens in there to make the eye look swollen and hemorrhaged. There's a realism in her appearance that's refreshing -- she looks like she's been thrown down ten flights of stairs and done her best to cover up the results with make-up, like any woman would. That's a nice touch in film making, I think.
And the fight sequences themselves are breathtaking. Grounded in a more real world vibe, they don't evoke a superhero feel with wild impossible moves and indestructible combatants. In the movie, Lorraine comes across as a well trained, talented agent who, though not as strong as her male adversaries, may have better skills and takes advantage of any casual weapon within reach. And we also learn that she's not just wearing those stunning thigh high boots with stiletto heels as a fashion statement . . . they're a deadly weapon as well. Clever.
But as I said before, she takes as much punishment as she dishes out. Especially in her two encounters with one of the Russian's top thug/agents. Played by Daniel Bernhardt (you'd recognize him as the top thug in the first John Wick movie) these two go at it furiously with Theron losing their first encounter convincingly and their final battle was so brutal I was actually turning sideways in my seat. It was hard to watch. But it shows that in an "action" flick, Director Leitch is going to bring it on screen.
So for those of us wondering if he's going to have the chops to do the next Deadpool movie justice . . . I think we can relax and wait for it to hit the big screen.
aside: As I write this, Josh Brolin who will be playing Cable in the next Deadpool movie has posted an image of himself showing his new buffed up physique for the part. He looks amazing. So he won't be the big hulking version of Cable as we've seen in the comics, but he's got the superhero physique handled. And he's a talented actor, so I think we're okay going forward.
And just because I have them, here's a few pics of Chalize from her 1999 appearance in Playboy:
*click on the thumbnails for full-sized images*
Did you find this discussion helpful? Check out my other not exactly a movie reviews for my thoughts on the flicks and the occasional gallery of hotness that accompanies them: