Full of Feral Grace, Atomic Blonde Kicks You Where It Hurts

Charlize Theron is shown in

Charlize Theron is shown in"Atomic Blonde

Atomic Blonde is a meaningless fetish piece of aesthetic extremes-grotesque injuries, mirrored neon décors that are like something out of a Nicolas Winding Refn movie, and enough references for a small encyclopedia-and it's the handiwork of David Leitch, who made the deliciously absurd John Wick with Chad Stahelski.

Oscar-winner Theron stars as ruthlessly efficient MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton, a platinum blonde with an impressive set of skills tasked with investigating the murder of an agent in Berlin.

How many movies have the, um, audacity, to kick off with the title tune from another film? What's making her mad is the underlying truth: that despite the good reviews, despite all the hype, if Atomic Blonde doesn't succeed at the box office, then nothing else matters at all. But it drags out a convoluted espionage plot anyways. There's a maybe-friendly MI6 agent who's gone to seed (James McAvoy, parlaying his natural sleaze to good effect for once), a frustrated Central Intelligence Agency honcho (John Goodman) and at least half a dozen other characters of dubious allegiances and/or narrative importance.

Because that stuff is so inconsequential, it wouldn't hurt to take a half hour nap through it all until a kick in the balls wakes you up again.

"Atomic Blonde" feels like the culmination of what might be called the "trailerification" of film. And it's not that she's not happy with how the movie turned out; if the reaction the film and Theron got at Comic-Con is any indication, audiences will be clamoring to get tickets. She portrays Lorraine as a steely, no-nonsense spy and masterfully handles all of the physical elements of the performance. Whereas another spy thriller might gradually go deeper into its complex networks of allegiances, "Atomic Blonde", based on Antony Johnston's graphic novel "The Coldest City", stays on the surface, keeps the body count increasing and the '80s score blaring.

Are there ever any quiet, tender moments in "Atomic Blonde"? It's a complicated, labyrinthine Cold War thriller on the order of John Le Carre.

"She wasn't very nice to me", Tia told a magazine several years ago, about Charlize's behavior. The action only intensifies from there, building up to a brutal series of extended fight scenes across East Berlin, including a remarkable sustained burst of hand-to-hand combat in an abandoned apartment complex. Working from a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad ("300: Rise of an Empire"), director David Leitch ("John Wick") seems less interested in character development than in moving along to the next flurry of violence. She's also asked to find out the identity of Satchel, a Brit who has become the biggest Mole in MI 6 history.

On the Bond question, posed in a statement by her old co-star Chris Hemsworth, Theron said she's "all for it", but is fine "leaving that one over to Daniel (Craig) or Idris (Elba)". It's a cheap way to string together a bunch of action scenes without putting in the effort to smoothly transition from one event to the next. It's also possible he'll try to have her killed. She narrates the mission in flashback from a debriefing with her bosses (Toby Jones and John Goodman), who mostly listen impassively, though her description of a steamy tryst with a fledgling French intel agent (Sofia Boutella) has them squirming in their seats. Eddie Marsan is perhaps the most sympathetic figure of the bunch, bringing MI6 ally Spyglass to life, but he too only appears in a handful of scenes and isn't afforded much in the way of characterization. It runs 115 minutes and is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. When we proposed that we wanted to use the stunt team to help move the camera in that stairwell fight, he was like, 'Let's do it!' There's usually a division on the set of who's role is what, but not with Jonathan and I. There are no politics as long it's compelling to get everybody involved.

This image released by Focus Features shows Charlize Theron, center, in "Atomic Blonde". 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.

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