A Nuclear Blast of a Movie.

Ever wanted to know how many punches and kicks a Russian thug can take and still get up again?

Ever wanted to find a place to store your keys so you won’t ever lose them?

Ever wanted a perfect chat-up line at a bar?

Ever wanted to see Charlize Theron naked in an ice bath? (This is – ahem – a rhetorical question!). 

This film provides the answers! 

Atomic Blonde lives up to its name by being a blast of violent action from beginning to end. What rather let the air out of the James Bond franchise’s sails in the late 80’s was Glasnost, the fall of the Iron Curtain and with that all of the cold-war related plots. Atomic Blonde sensibly avoids all such problems by pitching the action into Berlin in late 1989, with uprising and wall-falling being an integral part of the plot.

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Just don’t call her a ho…. when the girl comes equipped with a hose and knows how to use it.

Ms Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road“; “The Fate of the Furious“) plays Lorraine Broughton who sounds like she should be a librarian in Milton Keynes, but is actually a top super-spy for British Intelligence. A renegade Stasi officer, codename Spyglass (Eddie Marsan, “Their Finest“), has got a hold of a comprehensive list of the West’s operatives (like the ‘NOC list’ in “Mission Impossible”) and wants to use it to get his family out of East Berlin. Anyone and everyone is after the list including the Russians (the sadistic Aleksander Bremovych, Roland Møller), the French (sultry Delphine Lasalle, Sofia Boutella (“Kingsman: The Secret Service“)), the British (MI6’s po-faced Eric Gray, Toby Jones (“Hitchcock“)) and the CIA (a well-bearded Emmett Kurzfeld, John Goodman (“Patriot’s Day“)).  All will stop at nothing to get it.  In addition, with such a valuable asset in play, individuals are also not necessarily batting for their country’s best interests and cross and double-cross is rife. As James Faulkner (“Bridget Jones Baby“) playing the the British MI6 chief “C” (and “we know what that stands for”) comments – – “Trust nobody”.

Central to the intrigue is “our man in Berlin” David Percival (James McAvoy, “Split“, “X-Men: Apocalypse“, having great fun) who has rather “gone native” in burying himself in the Berlin underworld to get things done by unorthodox means.

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Berlin, November 1989. Lorraine (Theron) and Percival (McAvoy) out to catch the graffiti artist… there’s just so much wall to patrol though!

In true Bond or Bourne style, a lot of the action is ludicrously unbelievable. If I stub my toe I am hopping around for five minutes:  there is no way a body can take the sort of abuse metered out in this film!  But it’s all good dirty fun, and Charlize Theron is a force of nature in the movie, becoming (no doubt) a lesbian icon for the ages. 

Also excellent in his normal quiet sort of way is Eddie Marsan: an actor who nearly always plays supporting, rather than leading, roles, but always delivers with excellence. Here as “Spyglass” he continues to impress as a man caught in the middle. 

Sofia Boutella is also far better here than she was in the woeful “The Mummy“, restoring some acting credibility. 

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“I’ve been wanting to ask you a question”. Sofia Boutella, great as the sultry French mademoiselle.

The nuclear reactor at the heart of the film is the screenplay by Kurt Johnstad (“300”), based on a graphic novel by Antony Johnston called “The Coldest City”, which rockets along almost without pause and includes twists and turns almost to the final frame. As suggested above, the only fault with the complex script is that some of the action scenes stretch credibility to breaking point.  This sometimes threatens to turn tension to inappropriate laughter at the absurdity of it all. What’s clear though is that Theron must have trained for many months though to be able to execute some of the moves she does, in some of the most impressively choreographed fight scenes since the Bourne movies. It might all be movie play acting, but I would suggest all the same that this is not a lady anyone should consider trying to mug in a dark alley!

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Note just a pretty face. Charlize Theron knowing that she gave as good as she got with the bad guys.

The direction is by ex-stuntman David Leitch, and this is his feature film debut (although he did direct some second unit stuff on “John Wick”). He must have been delighted to have such an impressive team of A-listers to work with.  He does a good job too, with many of the shots and graphics having a panache that drags the film out of its potential B-movie status.  At times though, some of the stylization rather smacks of ‘trying to hard to be cool’.

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Trustworthy eyes? The ever-excellent John Goodman as the CIA chief Kurzfeld.

Another key contributor to the film is music coordinator Tyler Bates who pulls off the same trick as he did with “Guardians of the Galaxy” by stuffing the film full of late ’80s classic tracks.  Bowie, Queen, Depeche Mode, George Michael, Nena – all make an appearance. It’s also the second film this year to feature the Flock of Seagull’s song “I Ran” (for ten points, for the first to comment, what was the first???).  

For those who revel in high octane violent action of the “Taken” variety, with much bad language throughout, it all adds up to a great escapist night at the movies.  The ladies I went with were trying to edge UP my rating below…. so boys,  it turns out that this is possibly a chick flick after all… fill your knee-length boots!

Fad Rating:  FFFF.