Hot on the heels of Wonder Woman is another dose of cinematic kick-ass from a sister doing it for herself. Smashing faces, windows and cars (as well as the glass ceiling), here comes our second action-girl crush in as many months: Atomic Blonde’s super-capable MI6 agent working in 1989 Berlin, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron).
But where Diana Prince’s (Wonder Woman) is honourable, oozing love and trust from every pore, Lorraine has no qualms, no backstory and – from the look of her taking on multiple attackers armed only with a killer outfit and a hosepipe – no fear. As brutal and beautiful as James Bond, Broughton is also as unapologetically sexual, bedding men and women without a care. With her particular set of skills, no one’s going to dare slut-shame her. “Am I your bitch now?” she hisses to a sexist henchman before dispatching him. Um, hell no.
So who do we thank for this refreshing take on the smash-’em-up genre and this thoroughly modern woman in a Bechdel-beating blockbuster? There’s the Ripleys, Sarah Connors, Trinitys and Salts of this celluloid world who slashed and burned a path for her. But IRL, thank Charlize Theron, who liked British graphic novel The Coldest City so much she put her money where her mouth was and spent five years developing it for the screen.
Ms T knows a thing or two about creating credible action women. After all, she’s the actress who made Mad Max: Fury Road, a film named after the male protagonist, all about her character’s empowerment. It’s little wonder that her interpretation of a super-spy in a dangerous city as the Iron Curtain crumbles not only walks the walk but talks the talk, too.
Directed by ex-stuntman David Leitch, Atomic Blonde features long, brutal fight sequences Charlize did for real. No calling in the stunt double; the star was sent for two months of gruelling, five-hour-a-day Muay Thai and kickboxing training, so that when it came to filming, she could keep up with (and beat up) the stuntmen playing her attackers. Charlize cracked several teeth for her trouble (“I’m on my fourth root canal”, she joked grimly in a recent interview) – but her dedication means what you see is, she reckons, 95% her.
But more thrilling than seeing an immaculately dressed woman off an assailant with a patent stiletto is the hope that this chick might be the female 007 we’ve long been theorising about. Globetrotting, sardonic, deadly and hiding in plain sight (come on, those boots weren’t meant to blend in), Lorraine says what she wants, screws who she likes and gets the job done before reporting in for the next.
The latter is also what Charlize is hoping for off-screen: Atomic Blonde is planned as a franchise, joining Wonder Woman as a female-led actioner that can keep up with the boys at the box office. We’ll take that – like the real women watching the films, our superheroines don’t have to conform.
Atomic Blonde hits cinemas 11 August.
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