Focus Features premiered its spy thriller Atomic Blonde to a sold-out crowd at SXSW on Sunday, which was well-received by the audience gathered at the Paramount Theater in Austin. As the trailer previewed, the pic is packed with heavy action sequences, similar to director David Leitch’s previous actioner John Wick.

Leitch, who comes from an action background, having worked as a stuntman before taking the director’s seat, said he “really wanted to try some provocative things with action.” The film is based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston. “The noir nature of the novel was very interesting, and there’s a graphic sensibility I really loved,” Leitch said, speaking with Deadline before the screening on what attracted him to this project. “What I really wanted to do is take that and turn it on its head, he added, in terms of modernizing a Cold War spy film.

Focus Features

Charlize Theron, starring as the ruthless, lethal assassin Lorraine Broughton, carries the bulk of the action, taking on multiple fight scenes that had to be carefully choreographed. When asked about preparing for the character, she said she had “eight amazing trainers that basically made me puke every single day, and I am very grateful to them.”

The side effects of Theron’s intense training didn’t stop there. “I actually cracked two teeth in the back of my mouth clinching while fighting, because apparently my arm strength wasn’t strong enough,” she said. “I went into surgery right before we went out to Berlin to do this film, and I’m still f*cking dealing with it.”

Ironically, Theron was training at the same time as Keanu Reeves, who was preparing for John Wick. “We would spar with each other and sh*t like that. … It was just very macho.”

The film is set in 1989 Berlin, the time period that the director emphasizes with “a great soundtrack and amped up the colors from the ’80s.” Days before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Theron’s character is dispatched to German capital to retrieve a very important list containing the names of double agents.

James McAvoy stars as David Percival, who is also in pursuit of this list and is paired with Lorraine to navigate through the deadliest game of spies. McAvoy said his fight scenes weren’t as challenging as Theron’s, but he did endure a physical setback. “I broke my hand in the movie I made before this, so I had to do this movie with a broken hand.”

John Goodman, Til Schweiger, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella and Toby Jones co-star in the film, which will bow in theaters July 28.