August 2, 2017 -- Atomic Blonde, based on “The Coldest City” graphic novels, is a kind of female James Bond movie, only with more grit and a lot less glamor. Charlise Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) stars as the title character, a super spy, Lorraine Broughton, with a suitcase full of wigs and aliases, assigned to a near impossible assignment to recover a list of spies in Berlin in 1989.
The story of what happened in Berlin is told in flashback in a debriefing, attended by her MI6 boss, Eric Gray (played by Toby Jones of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”) and a CIA representative, Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman of “10 Cloverfield Lane”). Broughton, covered in cuts and bruises from all the fights she fought during her assignment, tells the tale of her mission in chronological order, but leaves some important details out.
Set against the backdrop of the end of the Berlin Wall, this is a story of brutal murders, betrayals, double-crosses, triple-crosses, gun fights, fist fights, all in pursuit of a watch with the spy list hidden inside. We first see the watch on the wrist of a spy who is brutally murdered by another spy. This watch is valuable, but it is not a good luck charm.
Time and again, the Atomic Blonde is betrayed, cornered, outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy, but she always manages to fight her way free. A particular problem is her tricky Berlin contact, David Percival (James McAvoy of “X-Men: Apocalypse”). She doesn't trust David, and for good reason. He is as dangerous as he is unreliable. She also encounters a French woman, Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella of “Star Trek Beyond”) and a man, code named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan of “Concussion”) who has memorized the spy list and promises to reveal it if she safely gets him out of East Berlin.
As in James Bond films, the fights are mostly for show. They are not believable. For instance, in one scene a vehicle shows up at exactly the right place at exactly the right time to ram another vehicle and knock it into the river, all this without anyone being able to know in advance when and where the vehicles would be in position for this maneuver.
Early on in the film it becomes clear that the Atomic Blonde can't trust anybody. There aren't any identifiable “good guys.” The list of betrayals and back stabbing gets ridiculously long. In addition, there are a couple of plot twists at the end of the film that seem superfluous. By that time, I had long since ceased to care who is playing for whose team in this crooked game.
As far as action goes, this is a decent action film, like a James Bond film with some John Wickisms thrown in. The body count is very high. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption are very prevalent in this film. Perhaps this is linked to movie financing. I did not find it very engaging as spy mystery. The spy list itself seemed more like a McGuffin, just an excuse to string together a bunch of fight and chase scenes, along with a lesbian sex scene. This film rates a C+.
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