The 1980s are back, baby — the fashions, the tunes, the Russian spies. The Cold War is hot right now, and action thriller “Atomic Blonde” capitalizes on that. Charlize Theron stars as the titular blonde in this violently stylish spy flick. Directed by David Leitch, “Atomic Blonde” is a cool bit of eye candy with incredible stunts and a killer soundtrack, even though it falters on the story.
Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a butt-kicking MI-6 agent dispatched to Berlin for a dangerous mission in the shadow of the falling Berlin Wall in November 1989.
Her mission is to retrieve a microfilm with a list of foreign agents working in the region. It was taken from the body of a dead British agent by the KGB operative who murdered him, and could now be for sale to the highest bidder. Lorraine is to connect with British agent Percival (James McAvoy) and secure the list. Along the way, there are tricky Russian agents, compromised identities, sexy French spies (Sofia Boutella) and a colleague gone rogue.
“Atomic Blonde” is about the power to be found in crafting images and telling stories. It’s self-consciously a movie about the movies. Take, for instance, a scene in which Lorraine makes mince meat of a Russian henchman’s face behind the screen of a movie theater. Eventually, she bursts through the screen, in the ultimate fourth wall break.
Unfortunately, “Atomic Blonde” fumbles its own tale. After a brisk first hour, the second hour drags into dullness. The narrative momentum is squandered and lost, and none of the coldly delivered speeches pack any punch.
It’s a shame, because “Atomic Blonde” is a visual delight. It’s not that it’s all style, no substance. But it doesn’t seem to know what to do with its substance, and ultimately, “Atomic Blonde” becomes a film that’s all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. 1:55. Fayette, Frankfort, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond.