Atomic Blonde is less a movie than a mood. But if you’re in the mood for what it has on offer, you’ll emerge one happy camper.
So what is that mood? Basically, platinum blonde Charlize Theron as a bisexual spy kicking all kinds of ass to the tune of Euro-trashy New Wave hits (think: "Der Kommissar" and "99 Luftballons") while sporting trench coats, sunglasses, and stilettos. (And seriously, who isn’t in the mood for that?)
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It all takes place in Berlin, right before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, so I couldn’t help but to think of Run, Lola Run. But it also has a lot of John Wick and a touch of The Bourne Identity. Dare I call it The Blonde Identity?
As for the plot? Well, there’s enough (barely) to support Theron’s she-Bourne routine. She plays an MI6 spy named Lorraine Broughton (terrible name, dudes) sent to Berlin to track down a valuable document and weed out a double agent. She is aided by scuzzy, jaded fellow MI6 agent David Percival (James McAvoy) and also being followed around by a mysterious woman (Delphine Laselle), whom she eventually beds. Toby Jones is her humorless supervisor at M16, a bearded John Goodman—doing his best Mandy Patinkin on Homeland impression—is the CIA agent tasked to help, and Eddie Marsan is the asset Lorraine needs to protect.
The word “fetishized” kept coming to mind as I watched the film, because the film eroticizes everything: First and foremost, Theron’s shoes—lipstick red stilettos and thigh-high boots, often seen emerging feet first from a car; then her cigarettes, smoked with fabulously sexy insouciance; and, of course, violence itself. Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch, the co-director of John Wick, who never met a violent death he didn’t love. (As I said in my John Wick review: Each death is like its own little blood-splattered snowflake.) But he does it with panache.
Still, while it’s always fun to watch Keanu do his thing, there is something uniquely satisfying about watching glamazon Theron—who reportedly did many of her own stunts (and if it’s not true, La la la, I can’t hear you!)—calmly take down all comers. That she does it to the tune of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Genius”? All the better.