Based on the graphic novel, The Coldest City (2012, Antony Johnson and Sam Hart) Atomic Blonde is a super cool flick. Brought to the screen by actress Charlize Theron, who is one of the producers of the film, it hits you over the head with flashy music, hip 80’s fashion, and of course, Charlize herself as Blondie look-a-like, M16 agent Lorraine Broughton.
It is 1989. In Germany the Berlin Wall is about to come down, but an M16 agent there has been murdered and a list of double agents in his possession has gone missing. Agent Broughton is brought in to find it. Her contact in Berlin is David Perceval (James McAvoy) a hedonistic joker, who’s intentions are ambiguous, and to complicate matters there is also a mole on the loose called Satchel. Add to the mix her superiors Emmet Kurtzfeld (John Goodman) and Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and a Stasi agent called Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) who has memorised the list and is in danger for his life.
Sofia Boutella (The Mummy) turns up as a sexy French agent named Delphine, who turns Lorraine’s head and gives the movie a Sapphic twist. As Aleksander Bremovych, breakout star of Land of Mine, Roland Moller, brings his particular brand of menace to the role of the KGB boss.
Charlize Theron, complete with Debbie Harry makeup (kohl eyeliner, two shades of eyeshadow and heavy on the mascara) submerges herself in the second great role of her life (after Monster). As a forty-two year old woman, she is in incredible shape and looks beautiful. She should be called Kickass. She is icily cold, just like John Wick, but totally humourless, unless I missed something.
James McAvoy has a lot less to do, and gives us a Tom Hardy type, half-assed performance, which HE seems to be enjoying immensely.
I felt a bit sorry for Sofia Boutella, who gets the sticky end of the lollipop. Being someone’s bit on the side cant be easy, although Agent Broughton does seem sentimentally attached. It is worth noting her love interest was male in the novel.
Overall, the staging of Atomic Blonde is over complicated, and although there is a mighty twist at the end, the ploy of having Lorraine recall the story for most of the film, ruins the suspense.
I hated the inclusion of the song 99 Red Balloons (overused to death in anything to do with the Cold War) not once, but twice, but was intrigued by the addition of George Michael’s Father Figure as Agent Broughton kicks the bejeesus out of a legion of attacking men.
Comparisons to John Wick are inevitable, but while the male version of this is witty, contemporary and extremely stylish, Atomic Blonde is dated, over clinical, and at times, pretty grimy. But it does have an audience…the boys.