‘Atomic Blonde’

Char­l­ize Theron stars in stylish ac­tion movie

The Star Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By GREG MAKI gmaki@star­dem.com Like Maki at the Movies on Face­book: www. face­book. com/ Mak­iAtTheMovies.

All neon light­ing and filled with rec­og­niz­able tunes by New Or­der, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Ge­orge Michael and other su­per­stars of the era,

“Atomic Blonde” rev­els in its 1980s set­ting. You might think you have the movie pegged; there’s so much style here it threat­ens to over­whelm ev­ery­thing else.

Then comes the ac­tion, and di­rec­tor David Leitch’s ori­gins as a stunt­man are on full dis­play. (He also codi­rected “John Wick.”)

Mostly con­sist­ing of Char­l­ize Theron’s MI6 Agent Lor­raine Broughton tak­ing on groups of bad guys with lit­tle more than her bare hands and what­ever makeshift weapons she can find, the fights are shown in long takes that em­pha­size the ex­treme toll they take on all in­volved. Com­bat­ants bruise and bloody each other; they stag­ger and wheeze, fall down and strug­gle back to their feet to keep on fight­ing. Leitch stages one se­quence, start­ing in a stair­well and end­ing in a car chase, in one un­bro­ken take last­ing at least 10 min­utes — an as­ton­ish­ing piece of chore­og­ra­phy and en­durance for all in­volved.

It’s Novem­ber 1989, the Ber­lin Wall is about to fall, and Broughton has been dis­patched to Ber­lin to re­trieve a mi­cro­film, con­tain­ing a list of ac­tive agents in the area, that’s been stolen by a ( pos­si­bly rogue) KGB agent. She must work with Agent David Per­ci­val ( James McAvoy), whom her su­pe­rior warns her has “gone na­tive” in the city’s un­der­ground cul­ture. There’s also a young French in­tel­li­gence agent ( Sofia Boutella) who quickly takes more than pro­fes­sional in­ter­est in Broughton.

Con­sid­er­ing the ma­jor plot twists, one is al­most painfully ob­vi­ous, while an­other — per­haps the most im­por­tant one — some­how re­ceives both too much and too lit­tle ex­pla­na­tion, which is an oddly im­pres­sive feat when you think about it.

Theron is mag­netic as the ruth­less, tac­i­turn spy, in ad­di­tion to giv­ing a re­mark­able phys­i­cal per­for­mance. Like Keanu Reeves in “John Wick” and Liam Nee­son in “Taken,” this is the kind of role that could help de­fine a ca­reer. It might not stick the land­ing as a twisty spy thriller, but as a show­case for its star, “Atomic Blonde” is a knock­out.

Rated R for se­quences of strong vi­o­lence, lan­guage through­out and some sex­u­al­ity/ nu­dity. 115 min­utes.


Char­l­ize Theron, left, and Sofia Boutella ap­pear in a scene from “Atomic Blonde.”

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