Charlize Theron stars in the latest action flick by John Wick alum David Leitch, and she proves once again that she’s one of Hollywood’s greatest actors with a physically brutal performance set during the fall of the Berlin Wall. I wouldn’t call Atomic Blonde a John Wick with a female either, that’s doing both films an injustice as each are unique from one another. She’s not just a one-woman killing machine hell bent on revenge, so Atomic Blonde isn’t just an action fest full of amazing gunplay and physical combat. It’s got more of a spy thriller feel to it with plenty of awesome action, and a few sensual scenes that will stick with you long after you leave the theater. Let’s just say that Charlize’s performance is top-notch in all aspects, even her dating habits. Meow.
As previously mentioned Atomic Blonde is set during the last few days of the Cold War, so most of the action takes place in Berlin. Theron’s character Lorraine Broughton is essentially a James Bond-like spy craft master serving the Crown through her work with MI:6. She gets sent to Berlin to retrieve a very important document that could spell doom for the impending peace between Cold War Russia and the United States, but upon her arrival things are not what they seem and she must use all of her kick-ass skills to stop a murderous plot.
Having a female in this type of role isn’t anything groundbreaking, but in terms of the physical performance Theron had to give, I can’t say I’ve seen another one like it. Lorraine deals out more than a few ass-kickings, and takes plenty of her own, so while she’s not going around and double tapping everyone in the head like John Wick, when she does need to fight she’s more than capable with a handgun and her fists. It was very refreshing to see a female in a physically demanding role. Like I said other female actors have played physical roles and strong female types before, but I’ve never seen one quite like the role Theron plays in this film. She’s the Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible, or a Keanu Reeves in a John Wick. In fact, she’s a hybrid of both. She has the ass-kicking skills of Wick coupled with the spy skills of Ethan’s.
While Theron, the cast, and the action highlight Atomic Blonde, its overall plot is a bit too predictable. Of course being a spy movie there are all sorts of shenanigans going on about who could be a traitor, but from the start it’s pretty easy to guess where things are going. Even when the film wraps and you realize that there was another twist, the payout doesn’t elicit any sort of bewilderment or excitement with its reveal. It just feels a bit hollow and lacking in any sort of emotional payoff. You just don’t feel like you were tricked in the least as you watch the plot unravel, which is a shame for a film like this, which is all about the world of spy craft.
Atomic Blonde is a solid spy movie with one of the most powerful and brazen female action heroes I’ve ever seen on screen, and Theron absolutely pulls off the role in all facets. The action is brutal, yet believable, and she never makes you question if she could be doing the feats you see her pulling off as MI:6 powerhouse Lorraine Broughton. With that being said, the overall narrative feels a bit clunky, and the multiple plot twists never provide the type of payoff that make you feel as if you’ve been duped. It’s still a solid spy action thriller worth seeing in theaters, so I do recommend a trip to the movies to check it out.
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Review Statement: The author of this review paid for a screening for the purposes of this review.