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With her ferocious turn in Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron went from Oscar-winning actress to Hollywood’s most badass action heroine. Her hard-boiled new beatdown ballet, Atomic Blonde, will only cement her place in the fists-of-fury firmament. Too bad it’s not a better film.

Directed by John Wick’s David Leitch and based on Antony Johnston and Sam Hart’s 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, this pulpy Cold War thriller features Theron as Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent sent to Berlin just as the Wall is coming down to recover a stolen list of undercover Western operatives before the Russians. Unable to trust anyone, even the spies on her own side (Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, and James McAvoy having a wild-eyed blast), Lorraine tries to delicately negotiate a minefield of double crosses. Well, maybe “delicately” is the wrong word. She’s a blunt instrument with platinum bangs.

The pounding ’80s soundtrack (New Order, Depeche Mode, Ministry) couldn’t be cooler, the ultraviolence is relentlessly brutal, and Theron’s guns-and-garters wardrobe is sexy as hell. So it’s a shame that apart from the gender flip, the plot is so derivative (really, a stolen microfilm?). Fortunately, there’s one absolutely bonkers stairway brawl that goes on for so long it will leave you feeling breathless and bruised. In the end, though, Atomic Blonde is simply an exercise in style. But what style! B

Atomic Blonde
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