Director David Leitch of John Wick fame does his best to make the world of Atomic Blonde as visually appealing as it is creatively bloody, but never makes any of it come together. For as much as I loved the sequence where Theron tears through an apartment complex from top to bottom, it feels like a scene from a different movie, as though Leitch temporarily channeled The Raid. The framing device of Lorraine telling her story to secret agents does little to play with the story, considering she could have deceived these guys with an altered story, since everyone else is keeping secrets in this farce.
Sometimes there’s a neon tint and sometimes there are muted tones. Sometimes the action is raw and fast, while other scenes are overly dressed and shot in slow-motion. The film bounces between so many different movies, placing a wall as confinding as Berlin’s between all of them. The director needs to have more faith in his abilities if he wants to mix neon dance clubs, German punk, cold spy thriller tones, hot lesbian scenes, gritty violence, sexy action and David Bowie’s music. Push blend, not chop.
Without a clear visual style, tone or pace to all its spy antics, Atomic Blonde is entirely reliant on Theron’s performance. She ultimately succeeds, but not until her character is bruised and bloodied as she hauls this movie’s uneven plot across the finish line. Theron remains one of the most daring and intense female action stars for holding focus and grit in a film that can’t seem to balance either.