Charlize Theron plays a British secret agent set to meet up with James McAvoy's rogue operative and rescue a vital informant from East Germany. A watch carrying the identity of a critical double agent goes missing. An adorably unprepared French spy falls into Theron's bed. Thickly accented Stasi officers do horrible things.
It's a fitting checkpoint in director David Leitch's career between the fatalist vengeance slog of John Wick (on which he was an uncredited co-director) and the post-modern mercenary spree of Leitch's next project, Deadpool 2.
Leitch's specific brand of violence—an instantly recognizable modern dance borne of the moment when swaggering deliberation makes way for blood-dimmed reflex—blends effortlessly with the faintly ridiculous formalism of spy movies.
It's curiously old-fashioned in its nostalgia for analog recording devices and state secrets unspooled through microfiche, but Atomic Blonde overcomes the wearying machinations of an energy-suck framing device and labyrinthine plot by literally drowning out every exposition with a soundtrack that's an upscale goth-club wonderland of post-punk/new wave.
Drenched in spray-paint hot pink and steel gray, the inattentive viewer might very well confuse Atomic Blonde with a lengthy and brutal cologne ad. But even with the playfully stylized flourishes teasing coherency from a pointlessly complicated narrative, the film has a giddy devotion to its own daft momentum.
CRITIC'S RATING: 3/4 stars.
Rated R. Atomic Blonde plays at Bagdad, Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Division, Eastport, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Oak Grove, St. Johns Pub and Theater, Tigard, Vancouver.