David Leitch’s adaptation of the graphic novel from Oni Press is something of an anomaly that I’ve had a difficult time wrapping my head around since I finished it. I’m not typically one who is easy on an action movie that’s so unnecessarily hard to follow, but “Atomic Blonde” kept me hooked, even when I was trying to keep up with it. Leitch’s direction, matched with the excellent editing, and just amazing martial arts scenes assured me I may just be watching “Atomic Blonde” again and again. The amalgam of a neo-noir and a gung ho martial arts spy thriller amounts to an occasionally awkward experience, but I embraced it in the end as this imperfect action film that sucked me in time and time again.
Charlize Theron is mesmerizing as spy Lorrain Broughton, a very ruthless and cunning spy for MI6 who spends her time risking her life in the end of the cold war looking for a dossier that will reveal the identity of many spies working in Russia. As Lorraine is sent in to investigate, she gets entangled in a hopeless web of lies, twists, turns, and even is confronted with a myriad shady characters that she’s never quite sure she can trust. She even gets romantically involved with an enigmatic woman named Delphine who gives her a taste of a different life that makes her question her career as a spy. Things get tougher the closer she gets to retrieving the dossier, challenging Lorraine whose fighting skills are just raw and often vicious.
Director Leitch stages so many excellent fight scenes that compensate for the incredibly convoluted narrative. Leitch takes dips in to the neon flashed and slick underworld of spies and dark criminal element with much of the scenes complimented by the meticulous and memorable soundtrack filled with excellent songs from the eighties. Rest assured, you won’t hear “Voices Carry” the same way ever again. Director Leitch derives a lot of compelling drama out of fight scenes that side step flash in favor of carnage. When Lorraine goes toe to toe with men twice her size, she’s a force to be reckoned with time and time again, and Leitch is never afraid to explore her mastery with weaponry, as well as the toll the fighting takes on her physically and mentally.
One scene even finds Lorraine going in to battle with two assailants only for her to literally drop to her knees in exhaustion when she barely finishes them off. “Atomic Blonde” is also helped by the stellar performances from Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, and Sophia Boutella, as well as supporting players like John Goodman, and Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones, respectively. I won’t argue that “Atomic Blonde” isn’t flawed, as it does tend to stumble left and right throughout its run time, but when all was said and done, I kind of loved it, warts and all. The fighting, the mood, the soundtrack, and the performances make up for so much of its shortcomings, and I can picture it becoming a favorite of mine down the line.