2017 Certificate: 15

Synopsis

Charlize Theron gets an attack of Aeon Reflux as MI6 super-spy Lorraine Broughton in this bone-jarring action caper set in 1989 Berlin. When a file exposing every secret agent in the West falls into Russian hands, lethal Lorraine is paired with maverick agent James Percival (James McAvoy) to get it back. But on top of the usual problems with murderous goons, sneaky bosses and double crosses, there are plenty more spanners in the works... not to mention guns, knives, hoses, corkscrews, ice picks, Stilettos and office furniture. Bloody violence? Strong language? Nudity? You betcha. Belting soundtrack, too.

Director

  • David Leitch

Cast

  • Charlize Theron

  • James McAvoy

  • Sofia Boutella

  • Bill Skarsgård

  • John Goodman

  • Toby Jones

  • Eddie Marsan

Review

With lines like "That's an impressive set of skills" and featuring one of Hollywood's queens of kickass as an ice-cool agent despatching Euro-goons by the dozen, this bruising action romp is obviously meant to be Taken with a pinch of Salt.

Set against the fall of the Berlin Wall, it sees Theron's intelligence warrior Lorraine despatched to the city to (a) stop a compromising list of Western agents from reaching Moscow, and (b) help the Stasi officer who made it (Eddie Marsan) to defect.

(Actually it's her version of events as told in hindsight to grumpy British intelligence chief Toby Jones and his US counterpart John Goodman.)

With the end of the Cold War riding on it, she's no sooner landed than she's having her first scrap in a moving vehicle, butting heads with scuzzy local agent James McAvoy (essentially repeating his role from Filth) and bumping uglies with foxy French agent Sofia Boutella.

And there's you thinking this was some sort of serious conspiracy thriller full of political insight, nuanced characters and never-saw-it-coming twists.

Nothing of the sort. It's a veritable checklist of male wish-fulfilment with all boxes ticked: gratuitous violence, female (and female-on-female) nudity, tooth-rattling action, strip clubbish visuals; all revolving around a display of female empowerment powerful enough to offset any feelings of sexist guilt.

Older viewers are also nostalgically served by a soundtrack that resurrects killer classics from 80s gods Depeche Mode, New Order and Siouxsie and the Banshees. It even makes smoking and drinking look cool again.

But at the end of the day it's an action movie and in that regard Atomic Blonde kicks serious ass.

After a bit of uncredited directing work on John Wick, former stuntman David Leitch unveils his own set of skills in a series of expertly choreographed brawls, including a battalion of goons being wiped out with a length of hose to the sound of George Michael's Father Figure and the greatest fight in a stairwell since The Raid.

It'll make your eyes water. But that's peroxide for ya.

Elliott Noble