If you’re going into Atomic Blonde wanting a simple action film, I can guarantee you at least one moment of ass-kicking amazement that will make the whole film feel like it was worth seeing. But be aware: this isn’t a simple action film. It’s a complicated action film that isn’t very good at telling a complicated story.
David Leitch, co-director of stupendous shoot-em-up John Wick, continues the command of vicious stunts and visual style that made his and Chad Stahelski’s 2014 film a violent, classy classic. Set during the fall of The Wall, he and his crew make Berlin look like a neon glow stick party (without going full Joel Schumacher). Better yet, Charlize Theron does almost all her own stunts, with the steady camera work making sure you do not question this fact.
When Theron isn’t throat-punching her way out of trouble, she makes for a solid, stoic, sick-of-everyone’s-shit action hero. She’s often humourless, which isn’t a necessity, but there isn’t much that humanises her aside from a love interest – and even that relationship is kept at a distance. (It’s the same reason I never fully loved James Bond.)
At least James McAvoy’s there to liven things up, playing a charismatic and shifty-eyed spy embedded deep in Berlin. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast get one-note roles like Frustrated Interrogator (John Goodman), The Rookie (Sofia Boutella), Mr McGuffin (Eddie Marsan), and Some Other Spy (Bill Skarsgård).
One-note characters work for something simple like John Wick, but Atomic Blonde tries to be as complex as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. These side characters aren’t deep or memorable, so when the film drops a heap of plot twists and double-/triple-crosses, it’s gonna leave many either confused or not caring for the backs that got stabbed.