Charlize Theron cracks jaws and gender roles as an “Atomic Blonde” bombshell
Without question, Charlize Theron (Monster, Prometheus), kicks ass! The 41-year-old Academy Award winning actress from South Africa came to slay in Atomic Blonde, a blast-to-the-past action movie about an elite M16 agent on a private mission in West Berlin, Germany, during the tail-end of the Cold War. And girl, she looks killer doing it.
The essence of Atomic Blonde will linger in your head for days. With non-stop action from the opening credits, this movie is as stimulating as it violent. Quick-witted, and stronger than a dozen men (literally), the main character, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), is poised and lethally insatiable.
Directing Theron in this wild ride is famed stuntman/writer/producer, David Leitch, who shines a bold and bright spotlight on all of his own aptitudes in Atomic Blonde. The four-time stunt double for Brad Pitt, second unit director on films like Jurassic World, Ninja Assassin, and The Mechanic, and now the credited director of Atomic Blonde, Leitch isn’t just lending his daredevil stunts to Hollywood anymore. He’s using his experience on the set of films like V For Vendetta, Fight Club, and The Wolverine, to create some movie magic of his own.
Atomic Blonde starts off with a brief reminder of what Germany was like in 1989, a week before the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is not that story, though. Retro synths pulse through the speakers and the audience travels back to the end of the 80’s where Agent Broughton has an effortlessly sexy way of preparing her signature drink – a generous amount of “Stoli on the Rocks” paired with a cigarette.
The duration of the film’s 1h 55m running time is accentuated by songs recorded by the decade’s most famed rock/pop artists: David Bowie, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Peter Schilling, and George Michael (to name a few). The music helps make this hyperbolic fight-fest a nostalgic joyride you’ll want to take for another spin.
In this millennium, however, majority of the big screen action movies are based on comics, and Lorraine Broughton’s adventure is another example. Atomic Blonde is based on a 2012 graphic novel, The Coldest City, written by Anthony Johnston (Marvel Comics’ Wolverine and Daredevil), with illustrations by Sam Hart. Now, Lorraine Broughton is on-screen and in live-action, and with her suave demeanour, high intelligence, hard drinking, and a strong-armed set of skills, she is equipped with all the necessary attributes of a legitimate action hero (and then some).
One of the ongoing themes in this movie is politics. The days leading up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall acts as a subliminal backdrop – David Leitch re-imagines the hostile situation between East and West Germany with panache, showcasing the tensions without ever taking a political stance. The audience is simply reminded of the very factual events that took place in 1989 surrounding Agent Broughton’s very fictional mission. Ironically, she’s in Berlin to retrieve special intelligence before it disastrously lands into the hands of the Russians. The whole thing makes you wish Hillary Clinton had an agent like Lorraine Broughton to call upon before the 2016 US Election.
Originally from London, Lorraine Broughton shatters just about everything and everyone she comes into contact with, including the proverbial “glass ceiling”. Her bangs are as blunt as her blows, and what the plot lacks in depth, she makes up for with her tantalizing brain, brawn, and beauty.
Early on in the film, a male agent (which Lorraine has romantic connections to) is brutally gunned down. Cut to a bare, battered and bruised Agent Broughton taking an ice bath, nursing her cringe-worthy injuries. She is desirable within her power.
Action stars are almost always labelled as sex symbols and Charlize Theron is no exception. Her icy-hot nude/sex scenes are sure to stiffen more than just her title as an action hero. About halfway through the film, we see Lorraine Broughton spark another romantic connection, this time with a rookie French agent, Delphine LaSalle, played by Sofia Boutella (The Mummy). Agent LaSalle is written as a male character in the comic, but director David Leitch thought it would be a good idea to swap the character’s gender in the film adaptation.
“It’s not something we see enough of in cinema, these kinds of relationships or exploration,” Theron says in an interview with USA Today. “It’s very real. And we’re so scared of it. And it’s beautiful in the film. It’s very sexy. The two of us talked a lot about how it’s about time that women can own their sexuality the same way males get to in movies.” Theron makes a valid point, but the lesbian affair is never labelled as such. Not that it has to be. Perhaps being directed by a man is what makes their love scene feel as if it’s just another way to lure heterosexual males into buying movie tickets.
Overall, Agents Broughton and LaSalle’s sex scene gives audiences yet another hetero-normative idea of what lesbian sex looks like. As a community, we’d like to see more LGBTQ+ love depicted in major motion productions, but this scene is overtly sexual. Any realistic attraction that lesbian, bisexual, or fluid women have with one another seems to get lost in the fray.
The women’s love story is fugitive, brief, and turbulent, but it also exemplifies an un-visited sanction of feminism in action movies. The pair are seductive, independent, and self-reliant. The only problem is that most men will be too busy ogling over their sex to realize these powerful women don’t need them. Not for protection. Not for love. Not even for sex. This puts Lorraine’s character in a category no other blockbuster action hero has visited before. We certainly haven’t seen a sexually fluid male action hero…
Speaking of men, John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane, Kong: Skull Island), James McAvoy (X-Men: Days Of Future Past, Split), and Bill Skarsgård (Hemlock Grove, It), all lend their acting chops as supporting roles. The three stars bring some added flavour to the entrée, but this is Charlize Theron’s main dish and she’s serving it ice cold.
With Atomic Blonde detonating in theatres this summer, Charlize Theron has solidified her title as a full-blown action star. Having Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Fate of the Furious, under her garter belt doesn’t hurt, either. Not like the bruised ribs or cracked teeth she endured doing all of her own stunts did, anyway. If you’re looking for a fast-paced spy thriller, Atomic Blonde is your summer movie. It’s stylish and valiant with a pulsating soundtrack, chic wardrobe, and epic fight scenes (the savage 7-minute stairwell brawl shot with an iPhone 6 smartphone goes down in herstory).
Besides the gender-flip, the story line seems uninspired, and there are moments I wished a fight would break out instead. But after all is said and done, this film successfully casts a female-centric shadow on a very male-dominated genre. Lorraine Broughton is an atomic James Bond in stilettos, and she is not afraid to use them.
About the Author
Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.