Normally I'm not a big fan of product placement but I was happy to be seduced by 2017's Atomic Blonde
into having a glass of vodka on the rocks. This stylish solo directorial debut by former stuntman Kurt Johnstad is a cool, neon painted contemplation of Charlize Theron's beauty most of the time, and the rest of the time it has her in some really well constructed action sequences.
I can't really say much about the plot. Lorraine (Theron) is an agent from MI6 who goes on assignment in Berlin in 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. As she testily points out more then once, she's immediately made by the KGB and from then on she's in constant peril as she simultaneously tries to track down a double agent named "Satchel" and acquire a list of sensitive names. This list turns out to have been memorised by a guy code named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) so he becomes a living McGuffin, something that reminded me a bit of The 39 Steps
But mainly the pleasure in the film is watching Theron with a platinum bob strutting in fantastically chic boots and stilettos through neon haze and shadow. Reviews predictably compare her to James Bond but in her beautiful love scenes with the naive French agent, Delphine (Sofia Boutella), she's nowhere near as annoying as James Bond usually is.
About two thirds of the way through the movie, though, the action aspect of the film really kicks in with a lengthy fight down a stairwell in an apartment building. It seems to be a descendent of the famous sloppy hallway fight in Oldboy
though now, after Birdman
, it's a lot easier to imitate continuous shots. Johnstad knows this and so pushes it further, having what looks like one shot continue down several floors to outside the building to inside a car driving down the street. And Theron, who apparently trained so hard for this film she cracked her teeth clenching them, does some really impressive work in the fight scenes.
I felt like the plot went through a bit too many convolutions but I wonder if the resulting disorientation was intentional. In any case, the film's not really about that, as I said. It's a bathtub filled with ice, Charlize Theron, and Stolichnaya.