Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Atomic Blonde Movie Review: Charlize Theron Delivers A Very Dedicated, Bone-Crunching Performance As An Ass-Kicking Female Spy

 
ACTION FILMS where the lead is an ass-kicking woman include Scarlett Johansson in “Lucy” and “Ghost in the Shell”, Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games”, Angelina Jolie in “Lara Croft” and “Salt”, Zoe Saldana in “Colombiana”, Kate Beckinsale in “Underworld” and Milla Jovovich in “Resident Evil”. But they now all pale in comparison to Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde” who is so totally committed to her role as Lorraine, a very complicated spy in the chaotic world of espionage and skullduggery. The twist is something not even a veteran of many spy thrillers cannot easily predict and will put James Bond to shame.

Based on a comics series called “The Coldest City”, this action-thriller is set in Berlin in 1989 just when the Berlin Wall, a symbol of oppression and division, is about to fall. Spies working for the Americans, the Russians and the British are all after a wristwatch that contains the names of all active undercover agents from both the East and West.


A British agent first gets it, but he is killed by a Russian who then offers it to the highest bidder. British intelligence then brings in one of their best agents, Lorraine, to get back the watch and unmask the identity of an elusive double agent called Satchel, whose identity they’ve been trying to unmask for years. Without the watch, she’s then supposed to rescue an East German defector, Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), who has memorized the entire list of Allied spies.

Lorraine is supposed to work with another British agent in Berlin, Percival (James McAvoy), who, unknown to her, has his own ulterior motives. Lorraine is immediately kidnapped upon her arrival in Berlin, starting a series of savage fight scenes. The story is told mostly in flashbacks, while Lorraine is being interviewed in a debriefing, after accomplishing her mission, by her M16 boss who’s behind a two-way mirror (James Faulkner) and his deputy (Toby Jones) with a CIA representative (John Goodman.) Don’t leave the theater after the interview with Lorraine because there is an epilogue where more surprising revelations come up.

The film is directed by David Leitch, the co-director of “John Wick”. The movie’s first part is a slow burn with all the talky expositions, but once it kicks in, you can expect high octane and exhilarating action scenes full of frenetic, amped-up energy. The style of “John Wick” showing slambang action scenes is very much in evidence in “Atomic Blonde”. You might have also seen it in the Jason Bourne films, but Leitch presents it with darker visuals yet uses 80s songs for the soundtrack, like Nena’s “99 Luftballons” and the tunes of George Michael, Depeche Mode and David Bowie, among others. Some things might seem familiar, but expect the unexpected.

Of course, what holds it all together is Charlize’s very dedicated, commanding performance as a chilly woman who’s on guard at all times. What she started as Furiosa in “Mad Max”, she now completes with her astonishing take on Lorraine. She appears in the opening scene totally nude in an ice bath, displaying her very lean statuesque model’s body, sexy but lethal while drinking her favorite vodka.

She is also shown in a hot lesbian love scene with a neophyte French spy, Delphine (Sofia Boutella of “The Mummy”), something you can’t expect in a male lead, having a same-sex love scene in a big-budgeted action flick like this. In several ultra-violent breathtaking hand-to-hand, expertly choreographed fight scenes, Charlize is seen punching and kicking her opponents, using her stilettos and other utensils as deadly weapons and also shooting it out with an entire army of bad guys. It’s obvious she does all her bone-crunching stunts without a double and we’re sure she somehow got hurt in performing them. Her Lorraine will now be as memorable as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor.

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