The name's Blonde, Atomic Blonde... but that's as close as Charlie Theron gets to being 007 in a slick but sickening Cold War thriller
Atomic Blonde (15)
Verdict: Mindless violence
The Berlin Wall is about to come down, and so is Charlize Theron’s underwear. That’s the knife-edge situation in Europe in 1989, into which Atomic Blonde plunges us practically before we’ve settled into our seats.
Theron plays a British secret agent called Lorraine Broughton. We know the South African actress is meant to be British because her boss is a slimy MI6 bigwig played by Toby Jones and because she tries exceedingly hard to sound like she comes from Surrey. Only her vowels and consonants let her down.
Still, there is plenty to distract us from Lorraine’s wobbly accent. There’s the soundtrack, for one thing, which begins with New Order’s Blue Monday and rattles through plenty of other evocative Eighties anthems.
The Berlin Wall is about to come down, and so is Charlize Theron’s underwear. That’s the knife-edge situation in Europe in 1989
Moreover, with the film just moments old, lovely Lorraine has already stepped out of the Cold War into a hot bath. She luxuriates in it only briefly, for this is a woman who finds solace not by running a tap but by up-ending a bottle of vodka.
By the end, she has practically drunk her body weight in the stuff. She even has a favourite: Stolichnaya. But for its extraordinary levels of violence, Atomic Blonde — slick, stylish and saturated in ‘Stolly’ — could be a two-hour vodka commercial.
However, director David Leitch and writer Kurt Johnstad have a more important mission: to present Lorraine as a female James Bond. Atomic Blonde is based on a graphic novel called The Coldest City, but their real inspiration is surely 007.
In fact, they evidently want Lorraine to make James Bond look more like James Corden, a flabby song-and-dance man. Martinis, shaken not stirred, are for wimps. Lorraine takes her vodka neat, prefers her men dead and likes her women hot. Yes, Lorraine is a lesbian.
There’s a great deal that is unintentionally laughable about Atomic Blonde, but the biggest hoot of all is that it packs a feminist message. Actually, it might be the least feminist film of all time.
A ruthless spy who looks like Charlize Theron, fights like Mike Tyson in his prime, drinks like Dean Martin in his, and sleeps with Sofia Boutella (playing a sexy French agent called Delphine), is less a credible female protagonist, more a rampant male fantasy.
Theron plays a British secret agent called Lorraine Broughton. We know the South African actress is meant to be British because her boss is a slimy MI6 bigwig
Did I mention that there’s also a plot? Not half. Atomic Blonde is suffused with plot, some of it close to being comprehensible.
Lorraine is sent to Berlin where a MI6 agent has been murdered, evidently by the KGB. He was carrying a top-secret list, an ‘atomic bomb’ of information, identifying all operational Cold War spies.
Naturally, it was contained on microfilm hidden in his wristwatch, which his assailant discovered immediately. One day, a spy will carry explosive information on a notepad in his breast pocket, and they’ll never find it.
Anyway, everyone wants the missing list, which an East German Stasi officer (Eddie Marsan), codenamed Spyglass, has usefully gone and memorised.
Happily, he wants to defect to the West and Lorraine must help him do so.
But somewhere or other there is a double-agent determined to stop him, codenamed Satchel. It’s fair to say that Lorraine doesn’t need Satchel on her back.
Her contact is the arrogant MI6 head of station played rather annoyingly by James McAvoy, though he gets no favours from the script, which lumbers him with trashy-paperback lines such as: ‘We’ve been in the trenches long enough to know that, at times like this, Berlin has its own set of rules.’
Still, it seems that Berlin does indeed have its own set of rules. Rule one is to kill as many people as possible, which Lorraine does in a variety of ingenious and ever more violent ways.
Now, Leitch was a stunt co-ordinator before he was a director, and strongly influenced both John Wick films, in which Keanu Reeves played the world’s top assassin, supposedly retired, but never far from another incontinent killing spree.
In Atomic Blonde, Leitch choreographs a string of grotesque deaths even more lovingly than he did in John Wick.
Did I mention that there’s also a plot? Not half. Atomic Blonde is suffused with plot, some of it close to being comprehensible
He certainly knows how to craft a good-looking fight scene. But this film styles violence almost to the point of fetishising it. I’d had enough of it long before the end.
The counterpoint to all the murderous mayhem is provided by Toby Jones’s MI6 officer and a CIA spook played by John Goodman, in an interrogation room back in London. There, they quiz Lorraine on what exactly happened in Berlin, which is handy for those of us who still aren’t sure.
The Berlin scenes unfold as a series of extended flashbacks, yielding occasional Bond-like shafts of wit, as when, after Lorraine’s Sapphic romp with her Gallic girlfriend, her po-faced boss says: ‘So, you made contact with the French operative …’
At the Leicester Square screening I went to, a lavish occasion for film- industry insiders, that line was greeted with a ripple of laughter. But the end-credits were received in silence, not with the appreciative applause that industry folk usually bestow.
That speaks volumes about a film that is full of energy, but morally empty.
Most watched News videos
- Tourists look on in shock as a dingy of migrants washes up
- Cyclist attacks thief after leaving bike unlocked for seconds
- Sunbathers shocked as migrants load onto beach from dingy
- Mysterious creature spotted in shallow mud pool
- Emergency services work on entering top deck of London bus crash
- Trump threatens North Korea with 'fire and fury' if provoked again
- Princess Diana's driver: Her death 'stirred things within me'
- 'They've been brought to justice': Council chief on sex gang
- Taylor Swift heads to court for DJ's alleged groping lawsuit
- Girl injured when boiling water was thrown on her at a sleepover
- Brotherly love! Sister needs comfort going through car wash
- Huge crowds of saluting North Koreans show loyalty to Kim Jong-un
The comments below have not been moderated.
The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.
By posting your comment you agree to our house rules.