We’ve seen a recent spike in strong female protagonists who can hold their own in battle; films like ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Ghost in the Shell’, ‘Valerian’ and even ‘Logan’ come to mind. This is familiar territory for Charlize Theron who made quite an impact as Furiosa in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. Based on a graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’,’ Atomic Blonde’ is cut from the same cloth as ‘John Wick’ in that it features gunplay and close quarters hand-to-hand combat that will make you wince. Keeping all that in mind, seeing the Oscar-award winning actor as Lorraine Broughton – an MI6 agent who is more than capable of receiving and dishing out a thorough bashing – isn’t exactly a far stretch.
On this front, Theron delivers by levelling the field to such an extent that her gender is almost irrelevant. Her skill-set is brutal and effective, but not unrealistic. This should be credited to director David Leitch, a former stuntman, who also directed some of the action in ‘John Wick’ and his dexterity with handling it is evident. There are gripping sequences in ‘Atomic Blonde’, and one in particular, that are a clever mix of camera work, editing and innovative fight choreography – enough to justify the cost of a ticket. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of a coherent plot. Leitch isn’t as adept with storytelling, and he’s working with a convoluted screenplay that gives us twists and turns that seem to be thrown in just to make it all mean something. At the end of almost two hours, this gets a tad frustrating.
This does not detract from some solid performances by Theron, and especially James McAvoy who seems to be on a roll. He brings a manic energy to David Percival and manages to steal some scenes away from Theron. Aided by a soundtrack that mirrors the rebellious sentiment around the fall of the Berlin Wall, ‘Atomic Blonde’ is just enough fun. But it tries so hard to be mysterious and unpredictable that it ends up being more chaotic than it deserves to be. Truly a missed opportunity that leaves you more baffled than awestruck.