A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Atomic Blonde is a spy film set in the late '80s and that it's intensely violent, with lots and lots of fighting. It's similar to John Wick but with a woman (Charlize Theron) as the main character. Teens may well be interested, but be ready for mature content of every stripe. Characters shoot and stab each other, blood spurts and sprays, and there are dead bodies, car chases/crashes, people getting strangled and bashed with blunt objects, and much more. There's brief but repeated partial nudity (a woman's bare breasts and bottom are seen), a man is shown in bed with three women, and two women have fairly graphic sex. Language includes "f--k," "c--ksucker," and "s--t." Stolichnaya vodka is featured prominently, and the main character drinks it frequently, though she never seems drunk. There's also frequent smoking. While the main character is unquestionably equal to her male counterparts, she also kills without consequence and lies, making her a complicated (at best!) role model.
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What's the story?
In ATOMIC BLONDE, bruised MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) meets with her superiors to tell the story of her most recent mission. It's 1989 in Berlin, just before the wall comes down, and a secret agent has been caught and killed. He had a list with the names and sensitive information of every MI6 agent; it has presumably been stolen by the killer. Lorraine is sent to Berlin to meet with David Percival (James McAvoy) and find the list. There are many complications, including the presence of a man called Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) who has memorized the list, as well as a mysterious woman (Sofia Boutella) who seems to be following Lorraine. And perhaps even Percival can't be trusted. There are many fights and chases, but the question remains: Who's the double agent who's been leaking MI6 information?
Is it any good?
Theron fights, punches, kicks, and shoots her way through this beautifully choreographed, narratively complex, but slightly sluggish action movie from one of the makers of John Wick. Former stuntman David Leitch produced and co-directed (without credit) that Keanu Reeves film; given that it and Atomic Blonde are the same kind of nonstop, action-based stories, it's hard not to compare them. But when you do, this film comes up a little short. While John Wick was tightly constructed, visually playful, and stripped down to the point of existentialism, Atomic Blonde runs a bit too long, hits some slow patches, and requires quite a bit of work to follow.
Nevertheless, it stands head and shoulders above most shaky-cam action movies with its gorgeous fight footage. A scuffle involving a yellow garden hose is amazing. Another sequence, in which Lorraine must whisk away a wounded Spyglass and defend him from armed attackers, takes place in extremely long takes with combatants working from all kinds of angles, with all kinds of props, getting realistically exhausted as the fight rages on. It's also heartening to see Theron taking punches, collecting bruises, and still getting back up on her feet. She's no Wonder Woman, but she's still pretty awesome.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does Atomic Blonde compare to other spy movies you've seen? How does Lorraine stack up against other movie secret agents?
What was the significance of the Berlin Wall coming down in 1989?
- In theaters: July 28, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2017
- Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella
- Director: David Leitch
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 115 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity
- Last updated: March 4, 2020
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