Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Roland Møller
Uncredited John Wick / upcoming Deadpool 2 director David Leitch should have had the most stylish and rewarding action flick at SXSW this year. Unfortunately, Atomic Blond, the Charlize Theron – stylish and ultra-violent is more is more of an atomic bomb. Theron coming off the iconic Furiosa in Mad Max, I guess expectations were never going to be met. If you just had to judge the film on how cool (literally, she is bathing naked in ice cubes) it looks or how impressive Theron’s stunts (in which she chipped two teeth) are, this film would get a pass. Yet the 80’s era Berlin spy script by Kurt Johnstad (300 Rise of an Empire – really? That’s the best screenwriter you could find?) based on Oni Press graphic novel is a real jumble of plot, characters and fight scenes.
Undercover MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) arrives in Berlin during civil unrest to investigate the murder of a fellow agent. Before his death, he acquired a list of double agents that have various governments in a feeding frenzy. Station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) is her welcoming party as she begins to meet with various dark figures and make her assessment. Things get passionate with a French spy (Sofia Boutella) before they get deadly with what feels like every goon in the city. Lorraine can’t find the mysterious list everyone is after, but she does encounter Spyglass (Marsan), who has the list memorized. He becomes an invaluable asset she must protect.
That one fight scene is the only reason to waste your time here.
Charlize Theron looks like a sexy Paul Mitchell model from the early 90’s with her platinum crinkle curls and black/white wardrobe. Her performance isn’t short on attitude or stiletto fight scenes. It’s the depth of character we could have used a lot more of. In fact, there isn’t much depth to anything in this story. Thirty minutes in, so many characters, code names, alliances, and conversations, I almost thought I was in the wrong movie. Wasn’t this supposed to be an action flick in the vein of John Wick? The action finally arrives, but it’s too little too late. The plot is incoherent as Leitch (a former stunt coordinator turned feature director) once again values style significantly over substance.
Not a fan of the John Wick series, but c’mon, at least those are engaging and consistently forward pacing. Atomic Blond doesn’t feel alive until the centerpiece action scene near the finally which is comprised of one impressive long take that goes from room to room and has Theron doing stunt work that should earn this movie a SAG ensemble in the stunt department. But that’s it, that one fight scene is the only reason to waste your time here. Ok, maybe McAvoy is good too, but his character is written in a way that he just sort of pops in, steals some scenes, and then we don’t see him for a while. The inclusion of the lesbian love story is only to titillate the same guys who found The Handmaiden so interesting.
An atomic bomb of a disappointment.