FIRST LOOK: "Atomic Blonde" Establishes a Bruised, Bloodied, Kick Butt 'Special Agent' Niche for Charlize Theron

Updated 1 year ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
FIRST LOOK: "Atomic Blonde" Establishes a Bruised, Bloodied, Kick Butt 'Special Agent' Niche for Charlize Theron
Focus Films

Charlize Theron ("Mad Max: Fury Road") has impressively crossed another threshold in the redefinition of female action heroes, which has been brewing for years but this summers "Wonder Woman" broke the barrier through its impressive popularity that has translated into boxoffice gold by a female director.

Theron plays Lorraine Broughton,a female spy who exudes power and control. Her brand kick ass bruises,  bloodstains and lipstick performance places her in an R Rated action category that bring early Clint ("Dirty Harry") Eastwood, Charles ("Death Wish") Bronson, and Bruce ("Enter the Dragon") Lee boxing and bashing one on one endurance matches to mind. (We purposefully leave out futuristic films such as "Lucy," or "Hunger Games", since this is a period piece.)

A brief search and a borrowing a few fellow film addict heads produced a strong comparison to Emma (Diana Rigg) Peele in TV's British "Avengers" series. For spies and heroics (leaving out those with super powers) the woman character originated as a spin off of a male i.e. "Man from UNCLE" / "Girl from UNCLE,'  'Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman.  Bond depictions tended to be a less than brassy lady in a miniskirt with lots of sex appeal and, a decent shot.

More intensive contemporary fighting females go back to 1973/74 for Pam Grier as "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown." Geena ("Thelma & Louse") Davis played a Bourne/Bond  adventuress assassin in "Long Kiss Goodbye," Lucy Liu/Uma Thurman dominated "Kill Bill," Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster) of Hannibal /Silence of the Lambs fame, Ellen Ripley ( Sigourney Weaver) of "Alien" and Eastwood directed Hillary Swank as a boxer in "Million Dollar Baby." Kathleen Turner tried to establish a franchise as "V. I." Warshawski,"  a  private investigator from Chicago in 1990 but the initial entry flopped at the boxoffice. 

But these tough gals did not visually reflect the punishment Theron experiences as she slips into Cold War West Berlin on a "your mission if you decide to accept it...."

When vehicles roll over her lady lawyer identity loses a bright red pump, but Theron mostly abandons style as the traitors and double agents intrude. Her sunny blonde hair becomes ruffled, her knuckles bloody, and her face scratched by hand to hand combat crunching bones and pulping faces, then she  takes a breath, a drink and a shower and heads out on the town seductively taunting the male species. 

Broughton  doesn't need a man to look up to and definitely won't shy away from kicking the ass of them  — and look good while doing it. As one writer analyzed: "After all, that's the concept at the heart of feminism: the idea of deciding for yourself if you're going to put on stilettos or combat boots, combined with the knowledge that neither decision will affect your power."

"Atomic Blonde" has a cryptic story line told in an after the face debriefing. Her sultry smoky image sits comfortably among cameras and mikes as two superiors chastise her for losing a package. 

Director David Leitch (John Wick) creates cinematic imagery gems relying on a noir "Sin City," but crammed with punk music, neon settings, and intricate architecture (especially stairways) decorating the communist underground. 

As my 'she said' partner blurted, 'she's better than James Bond ... you don't know the ending... it keeps changing.'

That will keep your eyes and ears glued to the screen, even when the script lingers or meanders into incidents not fully developed. Yet, forgive them, how many superhero and space opera lapses are forgiven? 

To its merit, "Atomic Blonde" forgoes f/x CGI, instead, opting for old fashioned out numbered martial arts kick-a-thon bouts where ropes and knives joins fists and guns as weapons of choice. 

Visually, the red filtered nightspots and the dimly lit warehouses --- along with never the same stairways --- place Lorraine in a sub genre all her own mixing the aforementioned Bond/Bourne with "Mission Impossible,: “13 Rue Madeleine," “The Quiller Memorandum” (1966), expert Hitchcock McGuffins along side the European femme fatale. This gritty, brazen woman sums more to a Michael Caiane (“The Ipcress File” (1965)/“Funeral In Berlin” (1966) darker, less suave anti-hero out for herself , not any one country, kind of "spy." 

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