'Atomic Blonde' at its best when it lets Charlize Theron explode

'Atomic Blonde' at its best when it lets Charlize Theron explode

'Atomic Blonde' at its best when it lets Charlize Theron explode

The result is hardly a classic, but it's a damn fine action movie - it works.

Theron joins a list of risky distaff action stars like Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Scarlett Johansson (Lucy, The Avengers), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Jenette Goldstein (Aliens), Angelina Jolie (Wanted, Salt, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil) and Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Parts 1 & 2) who give Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson a run for their money. Suddenly this film feels more like a caricature of Bourne.

Too bad everything else is such a slog.

Leitch directs Theron in a spy thriller set just before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Lorraine Broughton eventually gets mixed up with a series of other underworld and espionage players, from James McAvoy as an MI6 agent who's gone native (fun!) to Eddie Marsan as a Stasi defector with a photographic memory to Sofia Boutella as a French honeypot (with whom Theron shares a memorable love scene). The current MI6 agent running Berlin is David Percival (a wonderfully sleazy James McAvoy), who seems more like a hipster frat boy than a spy. Despite being one of the most lovely women in Hollywood for the better part of 20 years, Theron projects a smoldering intensity, bordering on menace, that would not fit the typical mold of "love interest" that needs to be won over by James Marsden. This game of misdirects and double-crossings doesn't add up to much.

As directed by rookie David Leitch (a former stuntman who served as a co-director on John Wick), the film's dazzling array of vibrant color schemes and camera movements provides some over-the-top eye candy. Yet in the case of Atomic Blonde, the end result is a ideal balance of the two. This movie is downright tiresome when no one is getting kicked in the face.

Too many wigs; too many twists; too few reasons to care. Aside from James McAvoy having a ball as another goofball lunatic, everyone on screen just scowls in an attempt to suggest depth.

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But it's the Bond and Bourne films from which Leitch and screenwriter Kurt Johnstad borrow most heavily; there's an escape which is lifted from the opening sequence of The World Is Not Enough, and a line of dialogue that that is nearly verbatim what Dominic Greene tells Bond in A Quantum of Solace about the propensity of those around him to, well, die.

Atomic Blonde does look great.

At this point, you have to feel slightly bad for Charlize Theron. And in Yahoo Movies' interview with Theron (watch the clip above), she revealed that to get in fighting shape, she trained with none other than Reeves himself. An extended, barely-cut sequence in which she battles a group of thugs up and down stairs, through empty apartments and out onto the streets will likely appear in fight-scene montages for years to come. The whole movie actually is pretty strong when it comes to action sequences. But Delphine's character is primarily put into the script so Lorraine can have another handsome woman to kiss and make love with ... after a hard day at the "office" beating the crap out of lots of menacing Soviet guards and military folks. The film is sumptuous style with little substance, from the glorious punchouts to the neon glow and iconic dance beats of the 80's setting.

When the story of "The Atomic Blonde" officially begins, we see a ceiling shot from the back of Charlize Theron immersed in a tub full of ice.

Still, that action is damn good. I'm going with the one two-thirds of the way through this baby, although "John Wick, Chapter Two" was no slouch in the brutality department. Instead, it's a decent blockbuster with standout action scenes.

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