Combustible Celluloid
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With: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Roland Møller, Sofia Boutella, Bill Skarsgard, Sam Hargrave, Jóhannes Jóhannesson, Til Schweiger, Barbara Sukowa
Written by: Kurt Johnstad, based on graphic novels by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart
Directed by: David Leitch
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
Running Time: 115
Date: 07/28/2017

Atomic Blonde (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Flaxen Action

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Charlize Theron fights, punches, kicks, and shoots as well as any man in this beautifully choreographed, narratively complex, ever-so-slightly sluggish action movie from one of the makers of John Wick.

In Atomic Blonde, a bruised MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) meets with her superiors to tell the story of her most recent mission. It's 1989 in Berlin, just before the wall comes down, and a secret agent is caught and killed. In his possession was a list with the names and sensitive information of every MI6 agent in existence, and it has been stolen, presumably by the killer. Lorraine is sent there to meet with David Percival (James McAvoy) and find the list.

There are many complications, including the presence of a man called Spyglass (Eddie Marsan), who has memorized the list, as well as a mysterious woman (Sofia Boutella) who seems to be following Lorraine. Then, it seems like even Percival can't be trusted. There are many fights and chases, but the question remains: who is the double agent that has been leaking MI6 information?

Former stuntman David Leitch produced and co-directed (without credit) the Keanu Reeves film, and given that it and Atomic Blonde are the same kind of non-stop action-based film, it's hard not to compare them and find the new film coming up short. Whereas John Wick was tightly constructed, visually playful, and stripped down to the point of existentialism, Atomic Blonde runs a bit too long, hits some slow patches, and requires quite a bit of work to follow.

Nevertheless, it stands head and shoulders above most shaky-cam action movies with its gorgeous fight footage. A fight using a yellow garden hose is amazing. Another sequence, in which Lorraine must whisk away a wounded Spyglass and defend him from armed attackers, takes place in extremely long takes with combatants working from all kinds of angles, with all kinds of props. They even grow more and more exhausted as the fight rages on.

It's also heartening to see Theron taking punches, collecting bruises, and still getting back up on her feet. She's no Wonder Woman, but she's still pretty awesome.

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