ATOMIC BLONDE: It isn’t hard to figure out why this movie’s marketing arm chose to position the titular character (Charlize Theron) as a sort of female 007. Like Ian Fleming’s literary creation, Theron (SEE CLOSING CREDITS.) is a British MI6 agent proficient in cold-blooded killing for queen and country whose hard drinking masks a cavalier attitude toward life and death. Even the institutional thin plot about retrieving microfilm compromising Western intelligence agents in Berlin prior to the collapse of the infamous Wall (Proving that walls don’t work.) feels like it’s been lifted from some of the early Cold War era films in that series. In addition, there are some literally smashing fight scenes including an apartment stairway brawl, shot in a continuous take, that’s reminiscent of Sean Connery and Robert Shaw “duking it out” in a train berth in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (1963). But there’s way more carnage to be found here with locales that are anything but exotic as illustrated by the bleak landscape which contributes to the screenplay’s dark, B-movie pulp laden tone. As derivative as the storyline is with its predictable double crosses, moral ambiguities and narrow escapes, it’s fairly involving with its scripted warning that no one can be trusted…although it’s rather obvious which characters aren’t who they say they are. The ‘80s heavy musical soundtrack energizes the work despite the reality that the microfilm everyone is supposed to be after is like one of Alfred Hitchcock’s (PSYCHO) “McGuffins” where something you think is important really isn’t. That’s because the narrative becomes more about getting a Stasi defector (Eddie Marsan) with a photographic memory out of East Berlin. Theron ably continues her string of violent action flicks and her character’s penchant for sudden violence gives the work a sort of atmospheric, gritty realism. Even if there isn’t much in the way of story substance, BLONDE has a stylishness all its own that occasionally feels like a shot to the solar plexus. And here, that’s a good thing. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good movies starring Charlize Theron – that thing you do! (1996), 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY (1996), THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (1997), CELEBRITY (1998), MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1998), THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999), THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (2000), MEN OF HONOR (2000), 15 MINUTES (2001), THE ITALIAN JOB (2003), MONSTER (2003)*, NORTH COUNTRY (2005)**, IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007), THE ROAD (2009), PROMETHEUS (2012), MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

*Academy Award Winner for Best Actress

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress