Atomic Blonde

Jul 28, 2017

She's nuclear!

Atomic Blonde

Grade: B

Director: David Leitch

Screenplay: Kurt Johnstad, from Antony Johnston graphic novel The Coldest City

Cast: Charlize Theron (Monster), James McAvoy (Split)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 55 min

by John DeSando

“Don’t shoot. I’ve got your shoe.” David Percival (James McAvoy)

If there were more witty lines like that one said to Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), it might have earned even a higher grade. Alas there were not more, mostly less. The super-charged Atomic Blonde has an effective title referring to Lorraine and the Cold War, around which this actioner is set, the Berlin Wall final days in 1989 to be exact.

As its poster proclaims, this spy candy is centered on the slickly alluring Lorraine, a mash up of James Bond, Jason Bourne, and John Wick. Director John Leitch co-directed (unaccredited) the first Wick and has contributed stunt sequences, rightfully so because a long fight sequence, more than 5 min., starting in a hallway between Lorraine and a gaggle of goons, is a tour de force in a genre that has already produced some breathless action sequences.

Lorraine is trying to reclaim a valuable list of double agents, of which she is one. Not much more will challenge your mind, for this movie is spy porn, sequence after sequence of fighting and dying with blood splattering on the walls and sharp objects planted in heads.

A special titillation to some may be  the gratuitous lesbian lovemaking scene starring Lorraine and comely French agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), confirming this as a creative entry in the spy-sex set piece hall of fame.

The overall Berlin setting and the East Berlin populace ready for the wall to be torn down are figurative ways of telling us that Cold War spying is entering a new phase. Just think of the change cell phones will make, for instance. However I’m giving the thriller too much credit—it is full of fighting and shooting while its plot does little intellectual heavy lifting.

As in this summer’s Baby Driver, the soundtrack lends vitality to an already vital film, and firmly plants an ‘80’s feel: From New Order’s Blue Monday to Depeche Mode’s Behind the Wheel with Killer Queen to add more vibrations to each blow in endless fighting. Finally, listen to how well George Michael’s Father Figure adds to the romance.

Did I enjoy myself? You bet I did, given the abundance of Theron’s presence in all sorts of high couture and dishabille and the reeling cinematography. Not cheap thrills, just seductive entertainment.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at