Movie review: 'Atomic Blonde'

Brad Keefe

“Atomic Blonde” is the sort of movie that may make me seem like a no-fun film critic.

If you go to see “Atomic Blonde” will you be entertained? Yes, almost certainly. My issues with it lay not so much in what's on screen, which is good, as with the movie not living up to its potential. It could have been very, very good.

Director David Leitch follows up his excellent “John Wick” movies with another stylish action flick, but the problem isn't style over substance here so much as the execution of the substance.

The setting is 1989 Berlin. The looming fall of the Berlin Wall is quite literally the backdrop of this story, popping up in news reports as other events unfold.

Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is a British MI6 agent who goes to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow agent.

She finds herself in search of a man holding information “that could extend the Cold War for 40 years,” so of course plenty of baddies are after him as well.

With the (questionable) help of David Percival (James McAvoy), she unravels the mystery while leaving a trail of bodies.

Based on a graphic novel, “Atomic Blonde” layers its ass-kicking action sequences with the sort of complex Cold War spy thriller you would get from a John le Carre novel.

The action is obviously not a problem for Leitch, a veteran stuntman who knows how to put on a clinic for showcasing stunt work.

And, in the summer of “Wonder Woman,” it's more than refreshing that we've got Theron (who also produced “Atomic Blonde”) in the lead. She's got all the cool confidence you need to rival James Bond.

Leitch is less effective with the narrative, making it easy for audiences to get lost, or, worse, just not care about what's going on apart from the action.

Of course, it's sexy and stylish and filled with a bludgeoning dose of '80s pop tunes that do make for a fun time, even if the story gets stuck in the weeds at points.

Theron elevates the movie with a commanding performance that, following “Mad Max: Fury Road,” shows she's a fantastic action star.

This could be knocking as a franchise, and with some better storytelling, that would be welcome.

“Atomic Blonde”

Opens Thursday

3 stars out of 5