In ‘Atomic Blonde,’ Theron heats up the Cold War

Atomic Blonde, based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, gives us a fictional glimpse of the spy world in Berlin leading up to that fateful day in 1989.

“Atomic Blonde” is centered around Lorraine’s interrogation, 10 days after an incident in Berlin, by an MI6 investigator (Toby Jones) and a high-ranking Central Intelligence Agency operative (John Goodman) that mostly just serves to interrupt the movie’s flow.

From our first glimpse of Broughton – in a dimly blue-lit bathroom, emerging from a bathtub filled with ice water – it’s clear that this woman is a badass’s badass, and Theron plays her with a cool indifference; Nothing rattles this pro. Director David Leitch, a veteran stunt specialist on various “Jason Bourne” and “Matrix” movies, co-directed the first “Wick” film (with his production partner and fellow stunt master Chad Stahelski), and he is a man whose mission in life may be to stamp out boring moments and wussy dialogue. In fact, the Atomic Blonde herself looks like she could be the lead singer of one of those new wave bands of the eighties. Too bad it’s not a better film. This film is, in many ways, his stylistic debut: that moment where a director discovers his/her own unique vision and voice.

Her latest, the Cold War-centered “Atomic Blonde”, has her kicking butt in high heels, sipping Stoli vodka and casually smoking cigarettes like she has stock in both, all while rocking a killer blonde bob. A smart spy thriller packed into a technically efficient action movie that doesn’t waste a single shot. A lot of the sequences are delivered in long takes, with the actors and stunt teams thoroughly and convincingly committing to the physical performance. Most of the “action” happens in a film cabinet, down a back alley or with a silencer. The Oscar victor twisted her knee, bruised her ribs and clenched her teeth so hard while shooting one of the over-the-top fight scenes she cracked two teeth, requiring dental surgery. There are also no extras playing while the credits roll. “David was like, ‘No you’re actually going to throw big dudes.’ Alright, let’s throw some big dudes”.

Amid its backdrop of political volatility, the screenplay by Kurt Johnstad (300) – based on a British graphic novel – yields a few mildly intriguing twists but mostly is just a functional bridge between the barrage of brutal action scenes.

All of those women owe a debt to two female action stars.

“[We] just wanted this spy aspect of this story to have as many surprises as possible – not insane surprises, but things that were real on a human level”, she said, dismissing other spy movie backstories as old hat.

I’ve watched with great interest – and great disappointment – what Hollywood has offered Theron after her stunning work in 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly writer Sara Vilkomerson in Comic-Con’s Hall H, Theron said that she was waiting around for something very specific and when that role wasn’t coming to her, she went out in search for it. And she’s at her most engaging when paired with the livewire McAvoy, whose Percival has cultivated a wildman persona labeled “feral” by one of their handlers, but which causes Broughton, annoyed by the put-on, to snap, “Drop the “I don’t know which way is up” act already!” It’s definitely a film that fans of the genre want to check out, and leaves plenty of room for Lorraine Broughton to step into a wider franchise space, once reserved for the Bourne’s and Bond’s of the genre. “Atomic Blonde” opens in theaters everywhere on July 28, Friday.

Five minutes after arriving in the city, Lorraine is fighting for her life – setting the tone for a film that rarely takes its foot off the accelerator. The production design in Atomic Blonde is seal skin slick, always pushing right up against the line of too slick, always one beat away from becoming a full-on perfume commercial or nouveau Robert Palmer video.

Movie Review: Charlize Theron Is The Ticking 'Atomic Blonde'