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Theron fights her way through the glos 'Atomic Blonde'

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"Atomic Blonde" is just fun enough to enjoy despite its many, many flaws.

This movie is a sizable mess, littered with inconsistencies and banal ideas like the McGuffin lifted from the first "Mission: Impossible" movie, and it is difficult to reconcile The flaws in "Atomic Blonde" are due to their basis in disinterest rather than experimentation. Fortunately, the visceral response is stronger than the logical disruption caused by this movie. Turning the brain off for a while is a prerequisite for allowing the empty mind to absorb all the fights and rad 80s music that streams through the cinema speakers. There really aren't many particularly notable aspects to "Atomic Blonde," starting with a pretty basic plot involving Charlize Theron engaging in a series of spy games in Berlin circa 1989. The elements of the basic spy thriller are there, including dealings with fellow British spy Percival (a rather bonkers James McAvoy), French agent Delphine (Sofia Boutella), the well-informed East Berliner Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) and a series of Soviet flunkies to fight off. Theron is also stuck in an extended debrief to a pair of MI6 leads (Toby Jones and James Faulkner), and a CIA suit (John Goodman), which is standard spy stuff as well. It's all very functional without a lot of excitement or passion for anything too far beyond Theron using a garden hose to whip some poor German cop. There's an underlying emptiness of the whole endeavor. Sure, this is a movie that lives for its aesthetic and retro 80s style, but that doesn't have to result in the level of emptiness "Atomic Blonde" seems to aspire to, content in its inability to offer viewers a more complex viewing experience. Any attempts at depth are grasped at the characterization of Theron's agent, Lorraine Broughton, and the plot itself. Starting with the second before returning to the first, "Atomic Blonde" uses its plot to deceive the audience in a less than satisfying fashion. Twists are thrown in out of some expectation of necessity and, to steal a line from "The Room," to just makes things interesting. Or, rather, appear interesting for a moment or two. "Atomic Blonde" throws in two major twists in the last five minutes; the first is telegraphed heavily through dream fragments and some heavy dialog, the second is effective. Neither is vital for the viewer and only seems to contribute to a movie in which 90 minutes would have more than sufficed to complete the story. Both twists do speak to the attempt by "Atomic Blonde" at painting Lorraine as a figure for decency despite spending 95 minutes or so outlining her as a more morally ambiguous figure, someone willing to save lives when needed but whose end goal remains something of a mystery. Rather than leave her as a woman of great intrigue and allow for some ambiguity in the narrative, the filmmakers use one of the two aforementioned twists to push her toward the side of angels and effectively vindicate some of her actions from before. It's a pretty solid letdown for a movie that, at least for a while, actively fights against such easy portrayals. There's a streak of punk running through this film's veins, so it becomes a little sad when the filmmakers normalize things for narrative laziness. At least the aesthetics are enough to keep viewers somewhat engaged in the many twisted machinations in the movie. The action sequences are rather effective at diverting viewers' attention away from the weak plot and to root for Theron's spy, who is tough as hell but still small compared with many of her adversaries. Director David Leitch - who has spent much of his career working on stunts as a director, coordinator or active participate - reveals a knack for showcasing gritty sequences that float between brutal and darkly humorous. "Atomic Blonde" shines as bright as the neon in its logo when it allows Theron to punch, stab, kick, lasso and shoot her way through a series of enemies. Much of the entertainment belonging to "Atomic Blonde" comes courtesy of Theron's force of will and icy charisma. Her performance transforms someone designed to be a prototypical action hero - stoic and centered on fights and vengeance - into a fleshed out character worth rooting for despite the mayhem she causes and very much in spite of the writing around her character. For a movie that focuses more on the late 80s patina than depth, it's vital to have someone who can pull the audience into the movie with her. Without her, "Atomic Blonde" would be lose a good amount of the style it values so much, along with almost all of the intrigue. Rating: Three and a half out of Five Stars Ask Away Target audience: Viewers interested in some largely mindless violence and anything involve Charlize Theron. Take the whole family?: Definitely not. Theater or Netflix?: Wait for a home viewing with a few friends. How great is James McAvoy?: He is pretty fun in this movie, carrying the charismatic insanity he had in Split over to this performance as well. The movie rightly belongs to Theron, but McAvoy does his best to keep his character worth watching in the scenes where she isn't around. A movie dedicated to his character Percival's adventures in Berlin could make for a heck of a time. Watch this as well?: Drive does the stylized bit a lot more effectively than this movie does. For folks who want to see Theron fight her way through swarms of enemies should check out Mad Max: Fury Road and the underappreciated Kubo and the Two Strings. Rating: R Run time: 115 minutes Genre: Action

You can reach Eric with questions at eric.mungenast@gmail.com

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