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Review: Atomic Blonde – “a sexy and brutal, LED and synth soaked 80s action blast”

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Atomic Blonde is directed by David Leitch – who directed some of John Wick, and is currently calling the shots on Deadpool 2. It is written by video game writer Antony Johnston (Dead Space 1 and 3) – based on the graphic novel The Coldest City – and stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road), James McAvoy (Filth), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), and Eddie Marsan (The World’s End).

November. 1989. Germany, and the Berlin Wall is on the verge of being knocked down. There is a rebellious, punky and anxious excitement crackling in the air and the people, and Leitch does great work making this palpable in the film. This is felt through the fantastic costume design by Cindy Evans that is full of spikes, leather, plastic macs and polyester suits; cold and industrial – or 80s OTT yuppie chintz – locations lit in neon pink and blue; and a soundtrack full of bangers from Bowie, Public Enemy and New Order, augmented by a throbbing Tyler Bates score.

Secret agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is in town to find the spook who killed her old flame and stole a list of every deep cover agent active in the world. To aid her in her hunt she is partnered up with Percival (McAvoy): a rogue agent and charming prick who is either off his face or trying his luck with Lorraine. Tailored like Tyler Durden and constantly a stride ahead of Lorraine and the German authorities, The Mac is clearly having great fun.

Charlize Theron
is the Queen of Action and one of the coolest on-screen presences currently working, and in Atomic Blonde she is iconic and incredible – brawling and smouldering her way through rib-shattering fights, death-defying car chases and steamy encounters with her contact Delphine (Boutella), while protecting her asset who has memorised the list of spies (Marsan).

This breathless, slick and stylish action is unfortunately sandwiched scene by scene with flash forward interrogation scenes that have a tendency to drag and deflate the vibe and beat of the film. Top brass from MI5 (Toby Jones) and the CIA (John Goodman) are trying to get to the bottom of what happened but instead, make it hard to follow what is happening by making the plot overly complicated – with at least three triple crosses and about faces too many.

The film’s spiky style is mostly ice cool, but sometimes gets out of control with musical needle drops that are too on the nose, and spray-painted on-screen text that will evoke traumatic Suicide Squad memories. But Joan Wick is a sexy and brutal, neon and cigarette smoke drenched, LED and synth soaked 80s action blast, that is powered by a true atomic blonde.

Atomic Blonde is currently on general release in the UK.

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