Charlize Theron plays Agent Lorraine Broughton in “Atomic Blonde,” and critic Moira Macdonald couldn’t help but admire her shoes. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Pity James Bond. He may have an arsenal of gadgets at his disposal, but he doesn’t have stiletto heels. Nor has he demonstrated an ability to shoot perfectly while one eye is blocked by his stylish bangs.
The sleek, violent spy thriller “Atomic Blonde” introduces a new (and very well-heeled and -coifed) movie superspy: Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service. The film, directed by David Leitch and based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City,” takes place in 1989 Berlin. Broughton has been sent to the destabilized city to retrieve a microfilmed list of highly confidential espionage information, and to destroy — via shoe, fist or whatever weapon is handy — whoever gets in her way.
Movie Review ★★½
‘Atomic Blonde,’ with Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones. Directed by David Leitch, from a screenplay by Kurt Johnstad, based on the graphic novel series “The Coldest City” by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart. 115 minutes. Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. Several theaters.
From our first glimpse of Broughton — in a dimly blue-lit bathroom, emerging from a bathtub filled with ice water — it’s clear that this woman is a badass’s badass, and Theron plays her with a cool indifference; Nothing rattles this pro. It’s fun to admire her chic-as-hell wardrobe (apparently Broughton’s gadget allowance involves magic expandable luggage) and her creative approach to combat. (One unfortunate adversary gets knocked out by a conveniently placed freezer door.) It’s less fun to follow the fairly incoherent plot: Leitch, a former stunt coordinator, is no storyteller, though he’s a dab hand with an action sequence. One, late in the film, is a seemingly endless, unbroken shot on a staircase, with Broughton flinging guys down the stairs while the camera — sometimes blood-spattered — whirls around her.
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As the bruises and bodies pile up, “Atomic Blonde” becomes yet another frenetic thriller. While it’s still an enjoyable novelty to spend time during an action movie wondering where I could buy the hero’s boots, it’s no substitute for a good story. Theron, who has a long history of elevating every movie she’s in (check out her underrated turn in “Young Adult,” or her delicious villain in “Snow White and the Huntsman”), deserves better. As do her shoes.