'Charlie's Angels': Fresh faces, but frayed feathers


  • Movie Review
  • Wednesday, 13 Nov 2019

The Angels prepare to give another definition to the term 'road rage'.

Charlie’s Angels

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Chris Pang, Luis Gerardo Mendez


Dispensing with the cheesecake of the original TV show and the dodgy wire-fu of the 2000 big-screen venture, the new Charlie’s Angels is a pretty fun flick for something that is ultimately quite formulaic.

Less a reboot than a continuation of the franchise – with references to its TV and movie predecessors coming within the first 20 minutes – the 2019 version features new Angels, new Bosleys, and standard-issue menaces.

Wait, Bosleys? Plural?

Yes, the name is now something of a rank within the Charles Townsend Agency, which has morphed from California-based private detective outfit into an international intelligence/crimefighting network with Bosleys, Angels, headquarters and safe houses in every major city.

After a slick action sequence that opens the film and showcases the movie’s principal Angels (more on them later), we watch as the original Bosley, John Bosley (Patrick Stewart, taking over from David Doyle and Bill Murray), retires after many years of long service with the Townsend Agency.

Of course, you don’t think for a minute that they’re going to put Patrick Stewart in a movie and then have his character retire in the first 20 minutes, right? It’s not like he’s going off to fly around the galaxy (again) or something.

‘And we’re about to show you just how seriously the Barden Bellas take their oath.’‘And we’re about to show you just how seriously the Barden Bellas take their oath.’

But for Bosley Prime to re-emerge in the plot, we’ll need some ... whatchamacallit, ah yes – plot.

And here it is: Elena (Naomi Scott), a brilliant systems engineer with a multinational tech giant, decides to turn whistleblower to prevent potentially harmful technology from being released.

That puts a giant bullseye on her forehead – which brings Angels Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) riding to the rescue, with Euro Bosley (Djimon Hounsou) and New Main Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) in tow.

Like the 2000 McG movie, the new Charlie’s Angels – directed by Banks, who also wrote the screenplay – also features tech billionaires and unstoppable assassins, adding some high-tech gadgetry and some neat expansions to the Angelverse.

It’s all very Force Awakens/Dark Fate-ish: follow the template of the original while introducing new characters and changing the status quo a little. But really, is it all that new? Or changed all that much?

‘If not for this obligatory mentor-mentee scene, I’d have even less to do in this movie than 'Shazam!' – and that whole film was named after my character.’‘If not for this obligatory mentor-mentee scene, I’d have even less to do in this movie than 'Shazam!' – and that whole film was named after my character.’

At least, we can be grateful for a template when it comes to Angel badassery. Although this movie’s primary Angels seem awfully young – and that takes the tale dangerously close to YA spy thriller territory – Sabina and Jane bring a kind of freshness to the franchise that should win over the crankiest viewer.

Many’s the time I’ve thought Kristen Stewart was being unnecessarily dour on screen, but she really makes up for that here by clearly having loads of fun in the role.

Sabina is a fast-living, make-it-up-as-you-go-along type who jumps into situations seemingly without thinking; while Jane, a former “MI6 ninja” as Sabina calls her, is cool, professional and methodical.

Of course, no buddy movie would be complete if something from each of the two polar opposites didn’t rub off on the other one. The thawing of their relationship is quite amusingly done (although Balinska does need a bit of work on her sobbing) and the pair make worthy additions to the Angel gallery.

But wait – always there are three, no?

 ‘OK, so you can see my roots. Does that make me … illegally blonde?’‘OK, so you can see my roots. Does that make me … illegally blonde?’

Well, you don’t need to be Yoda to figure out, from the way Elena frequently gets dragged into the action, that she is a prime candidate for Angelhood. Scott does well to give her character enough spunk and determination to ease viewers past the character’s ditzier moments.

With interesting characters, some nutty-cute lines of dialogue and a pretty fast pace that helps its nearly-two-hour runtime breeze past, Charlie’s Angels 2019 is unfortunately let down by a story that relies too much on formula, red herrings and misdirection to try and keep us guessing.

“Try”, because the betrayals and swerves are so obvious that they undermine the goodwill that Banks generates in other areas.

Regardless, expect things to sort themselves out by the end, where a cameo-laden credits sequence awaits – one that should keep the offended purists amused and entertained enough that they might forget why they were offended in the first place. Worked for me ....


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Summary:

‘Charlie’s Angels’ offers fresh faces, but frayed feathers

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