As we hear the sound of the body hit the water, Leitch cuts to Theron's MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton emerging from a tub of icy water. His performance is over-the-top and the character, like most of the characters in this movie, is paper-thin and almost unnecessary - just another foil for Theron to fight.
If you are not anxious much about a cohesive, well-told story, or if fight-sequences and gratuitous nudity make a good movie in your book, or if you are easily hypnotized by handsome hazel eyes, then Atomic Blonde is going to work well for you. But it drags out a convoluted espionage plot anyways. As pointed out by fellow MI6 operative James Percival, played with delicious mischievousness by James McAvoy, the spy game is what they do best, and it's all they know.
Because that stuff is so inconsequential, it wouldn't hurt to take a half hour nap through it all until a kick in the balls wakes you up again. Slashers often star women, because women are seen as more vulnerable, thus heightening the horror as they are pursued and threatened. It's said that Theron sometimes prepared for this film with Keanu Reeves who was preparing for "John Wick, Chapter Two". And she's at her most engaging when paired with the livewire McAvoy, whose Percival has cultivated a wildman persona labeled "feral" by one of their handlers, but which causes Broughton, annoyed by the put-on, to snap, "Drop the "I don't know which way is up" act already!"
Needless to say, there's a lot of shifting sand - Lorraine even gets saddled with a Stasi officer who's memorized the list and wants to come in (Eddie Marsan) - and while it all plays out logically and neat, Robert Ludlum or John le Carré this is not. While the subject of the Berlin Wall itself automatically address politics, one of the only things "Atomic Blonde" clearly establishes is that it's not one of those movies in which spies are solving the messiness of politics behind the scenes. Neither "The Huntsman: Winter's War" nor "The Fate of the Furious" have let her approach, much less build on, the grit, stamina and emotion she displayed in the heroic action role of Furiosa. "I feel like we really set out to make this movie, and we ended up making that movie".
In the opening moments, she emerges from an ice bath, covered in horrific-looking bruises and appearing more tenderized than some steaks I've eaten.
The plan to make Lasalle a female character came from writer Kurt Johnstad (who also wrote 300 and is reportedly working on the Aquaman script for Warner Brothers) during the script development process with Theron's production company, Denver & Delilah. The world definitely wants to see Theron dispatch a bunch of thugs with a garden hose, the heel of a red pump and a refrigerator freezer door slammed to the face.
Lorraine is, truly, unlike any other female action heroine before her; Lara Croft, Lucy, Beatrix Kiddo are strong, but not like Lorraine. Not everyone was immediately sold on the idea: "I'd presented it to my stunt team before, and everyone's always kind of like cautious and hesitant, because [they asked] are you really going to be able to stay in it?" It is Lorraine versus a handful of Soviet spies, none of them easily vanquished, and there is more anguish here than in the typical action sequence - by the end, she can barely stand.
So Atomic Blonde is ultimately an exercise in spectacle over substance. Lorraine is impossibly cool too; this is Charlize Theron playing her, after all.
It all shouldn't work as well as it does, but there is something about Leitch's readiness to acknowledge his aesthetic theft that smoothes out any of the many rough edges.
This isn't helped by the fact that Theron's accent is all over the shop, so to speak, to the extent that McAvoy's own occasional lapses into Glaswegian seem minor. We wanted to make sure we had the right set ups and that it will stretch out to this time. With Atomic Blonde, Leitch showcases a good sense of cinematic vision to go along with his impressive fight/stunt choreography, while also showing off a nice sense of humor, and a some unique stylistic flare.