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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Atomic Blonde

ATOMIC BLONDE

** SPOILERS **

Atomic Blonde stole half the music from my iPod and built an action film where Charlize Theron kills a bunch of assassins in Cold War Berlin set to the tracks. This film in seemingly made for me, except for having a workable screenplay that isn't confounding. Well, you can't have everything. Sporting the same spotty British accent she had in season 3 of Arrested Development (for reasons!), Theron plays an MI6 sent to Berlin to retrieve a List of deep cover operatives on both sides of the Iron Curtain. She picked an opportune time to visit East and West Berlin; it's November 1989, the Berlin Wall is about to fall, and we're a year away from Jesus Jones writing "Right Here, Right Now" about it (that song isn't on the soundtrack, but New Order, Nena, and David Bowie are, and it's grand). 

Even as Charlize narrates how the whole mission went sideways to two old dudes, her MI6 supervisor Toby Jones and a CIA guy who's also in the room for some reason, John Goodman, we can sense all is not as it seems, though the film's excess of style provides constant, worthy distraction. As soon as Charlize lands in West Berlin, she's the target of Russian assassins who know who she is and why she's in town. She makes contact with a perfectly skeevy James McAvoy, the head of Berlin Station, who's gone into business for himself and selling Jack Daniels and counterfeit Jordach jeans to both sides of the Iron Curtain. She also has sexy time with her own Bond Girl, a hopelessly naive French agent played by Sofia Boutella. Boutella is very well serviced by Charlize in her hotel room but very poorly serviced by the screenplay, which makes her do the one dumb thing that of course gets her murdered Corleone-style. 

In the film's centerpiece action spectacle, Charlize tries to smuggle a defecting Stasi officer played by Eddie Marsan to the West when she's betrayed by McAvoy. The Russians come after Charlize full throttle and Charlize engages them in fight sequences more brutal and immediate than anything we've seen even in a Jason Bourne movie. The action sequences are truly extraordinary, all of it set to 80s New Wave music so loud it feels like Charlize is punching you right in the ear in between beating the crap out of Soviets. Not that Charlize doesn't take a licking herself. Even James Bond having his balls literally whacked in Casino Royale didn't have it as tough as Charlize does.

The whole time she's chasing after the List, Charlize is also supposed to be after Satchel, a mysterious double agent whose identity the movie wants us to believe is McAvoy. However, to those paying attention, especially when McAvoy all but announces it's really Charlize, it comes as no surprise that Satchel is really Charlize. She's also not really British (that's not as shocking - that accent fools no one, except the Brits in the movie). Does any of it make sense? Does it matter? Kind of, yeah. But you came to see Charlize kill stylishly kill people, you got your money's worth, move along and don't ask so many questions.

Director David Leitch, who resurrected Keanu Reeves as an action hero in John Wick, works his same brand of eye-popping, violent splendor on Theron. There's no doubt whatsoever that if placed in the same room with Bond, Bourne and Wick, she'd win the fight and kick them all in their dicks. Theron apparently did most of her own stunts. And it shows. The first time we see Theron is days after the events of Atomic Blonde, as she soothes her bruised, scarred, and battered body in a tub of water and ice cubes. Fellas (and some ladies), if you didn't want to drink Charlize's bathwater before, you do now.

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