29th Nov2019

‘Charlie’s Angels’ Review (2019)

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Luis Gerardo Méndez | Written and Directed by Elizabeth Banks

charlies-angels-poster

Elizabeth Banks writes and directs this second big screen reboot of the Charlie’s Angels franchise, following the McG-directed version in 2000 and its 2003 sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, both of which were based on the iconic 1976 TV series. Fittingly for 2019, Banks’ Angels have girl power attitude to spare, and the result is a flawed but fun action adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Kristen Stewart plays sparky ex-con Sabrina, who works for the Townsend Agency as a secret agent (or whatever the Angels are actually supposed to be), alongside no-nonsense British Angel Jane (Ella Balinska). After their old handler, Bosley (Patrick Stewart) retires, their new handler (Elizabeth Banks) assigns them to protect genius-turned-whistleblower Elena (Naomi Scott), who’s become a target after inventing a renewable energy device that can be weaponised.

Banks makes a handful of inspired tweaks to the franchise – such as the idea that the Angels’ handlers across the globe are all called Bosley – and also introduces a notable new character in the shape of Saint (Luis Gerardo Méndez), who’s like a hipster version of Bond’s Q, complete with wellness training and a never-ending supply of organic smoothies. However, she also finds room for some pleasingly cheesy shout-outs to the previous versions, including one crowd-pleasing cameo.

The rest of the film unfolds pretty much as you’d expect, with the Angels kicking ass and cracking wise as they take on various bad guys, including Jonathan Tucker’s silent-but-deadly assassin and Nat Faxon as Elena’s no-good boss. However, Banks’ pacey direction ensures there’s compelling energy to the whole thing and she also adds plenty of colour, with an inventive array of costume choices, one of which is the centre of an entire set-piece.

It’s fair to say that this version of Charlie’s Angels lacks the star power of the previous big screen outing, but what Balinska and Scott lack in name recognition, they more than make up for in attitude, energy and charisma. Balinska, in particular, delivers a star-making performance that should see her snapped up by other projects pretty quickly, while Scott is every bit as delightful here as she was in the live-action version of Aladdin, earlier this year.

Similarly, Kristen Stewart is clearly having a whale of a time as Sabrina, throwing herself into the action (horse riding, shoot-outs, punch-ups, you name it) and nabbing the lion’s share of the film’s best one-liners. (Sample laugh-out-loud exchange: “There was a gunfight at my wedding.” “I didn’t know you were married?” “I’m not – I was the better shot.”)

There’s also strong support from Stewart and Banks as the two main Bosleys, while Sam Clafin is good value as the billionaire boss intending to market Elena’s invention – he has a particularly amusing way of turning into a big old man-baby when his life is in danger.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its fair share of problems. Both the action sequences and the comedy moments have their peaks and troughs – for every punch-the-air action beat there’s a sequence that doesn’t quite come off, and several of the verbal gags fall flat so hard you can practically hear them clanging. There’s also a slight problem with the tone in the first half, though Banks eventually finds the right groove.

Despite its flaws, Charlie’s Angels is never less than entertaining, thanks to a trio of sparky performances from its three leads and a script that strikes exactly the right note of female energy and empowerment. Stick around for a fun end credits sequence, including a mid-credits sting.

*** 3/5

Charlie’s Angels is in cinemas now.

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