An MI6 spy travels to 1989 Berlin to track down a list naming every undercover agent in the city in David Leitch's Atomic Blonde, based on the graphic novel series The Coldest City by Antony Johnston, Sam Hart, and Steven Perkins. Violence, sex, and more violence ensues. Here's what critics are saying:
- Cliches "are milked endlessly" and there's a sexual relationship that seems to exist "for no other reason than spicing things up with some hot girl-on-girl action." But that can all be overlooked thanks to the "stone-cold badass" that is Charlize Theron, writes Peter Travers at Rolling Stone. The film's star, "who did most of her own martial-arts stunts, is pure bruising poetry in motion."
- Atomic Blonde is "the wildest, grittiest action film in years; a retro-cool nostalgia trip; and a fresh blast of originality in a summer of stultified Hollywood franchises," writes Rafer Guzmán at Newsday. It not only "breathes new life into old tropes," but delivers "one breathtaking action scene after another," kicking off "a cinematic blast that may resonate for years to come," he writes.
- Crafted in a "fabulous retro style," the film can "be a brutally effective action picture when the inspiration strikes," writes Justin Chang at the Los Angeles Times. The highlight is an eight-minute action sequence that takes Theron's Lorraine through an entire apartment building. It’s "jaw-dropping," Chang says. But the film is also a "delirious exercise in outré nonsense" and the plot is "a murky, nonsensical blur."
- "Atomic Blonde may be high in empty calories, but craftsmanship of this level is rare and exhilarating, and worth surviving some muddled plotting to appreciate," writes Scott Tobias at NPR. He argues "the film's hollowness is a feature rather than a flaw, reflecting the mindset of [its] kick-ass pulp heroine," even if her motivations aren't always clear.
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