Courtesy of Sony
We’re living in the era of reboots, sequels, and more reboots. This year alone has seen “Shaft,” “Men In Black” and “Terminator” trying to repackage a once lucrative property for the masses. Except, in all of those cases, the movies were bland, lacked heart, and seemed to have no reason to exist. You can almost say the same thing about Elizabeth Bank’s latest film: “Charlie’s Angels,” but this reboot has style, humor, and a slick cast dedicated to making you feel invested in the material. Gone are the days of Angels dancing in scanty clothing via the McG directed 2000 film starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Lu and no more Angels flirting with an older Bosely. This time, the Angels are actually doing things for themselves.
It’s a refreshing angle for Banks to take her film, and represents the kind’ve narrative touch a dated franchise like this could use. Like, for example, the Angels still report to Bosley, but in Banks’ world, the name means something, like a rank or “more of a lieutenant” as opposed to unabashed women handler. They are now many Bosleys all over the world, including Djimon Hounsou, and the great Patrick Stewart.
Stewart’s the OG here, and his character helped expand the famed Charles Townsend Agency into a global spy organization, with highly trained woman working undercover everywhere. Now that he’s retiring, Banks’ Bosley is left to carry the bulk of the movie’s primary plot: how to keep a device fueled with cutting edge energy from falling into the wrong hands.
For Elena (Naomi Scott, “Aladdin”) - the engineer who programmed the device, the consequences of not fixing the device are clear. In fact, she’s warned her superiors (Nat Faxon) about how deadly said device is, if not properly coded or finished. Someone could use the mechanism to carry out an assassination anywhere in the world. But something tells me, the bad guys want it that way.
Now the bad guys in this instance (Chris Pang, Sam Claflin) have their own agendas with the piece of weaponized material. But Bosley already plans on bringing in Angles Sabina (an enigmatic and scene stealing Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) to help save the day. It’s not that easy, unfortunately, and the trio wind up racing across the country between Berlin and Istanbul with a silent assassin (Jonathan Tucker) hot on their tails.
The narrative gives Banks, who last helmed “Pitch Perfect 2,” an excuse to throw some dazzling costumes on her leads, send them flying across the country and stage expensive looking car chases. Banks - working overtime as the writer, director, and co-star - is more than up to the task, and there are truly some great moments (Kristen Stewart gets the gold star with her zippy one liners, Scott is the perfect amount of ditz, and Balinska kicks some major butt) - but taken as a whole, “Charlie’s Angels” isn’t as sharp as it wants to be.
Since McG made the first “Charlie’s Angels” almost two decades ago, the stakes for action sequences have been raised considerably, thanks in large part to the Marvel films. But Banks takes a bold feminist approach to the franchise that feels strikingly moving to the era. Though a few scenes could be cleaner and would benefit from a pop of visual elegance (the film was made for a moderate $48 million which blows your mind when you see the film was shot by Bill Pope whose resume includes “The Matrix”) the positive message sitting at the center of the picture has merit.
Naturally, the film is peppered with tongue and cheek japs necessary in these tentpoles nowadays, and there’s a dancing sequence set to a remix of Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” that features Stewart, again, stealing the show. As far as other actors go, Patrick Stewart is the mischievous one who you wish was given more during the films lofty two hour runtime, and there are lots of cameos - including some Bosleys and Angles - perfectly chosen who may look familiar.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about the bond of sisterhood and appreciating how far we’ve come in terms of representation in cinema. This could’ve easily been another reboot that need not exist, except in Bank’s strategic world building and natural approach to the material, “Charlie’s Angels” has something to say in 2019 that its predecessors did not. Notably how these characters aren’t undermined by a script used to flaunt their good looks (though, trust me, this all female squad is very beautiful) or highlight flaws and insecurities for a good hook. This “Charlie’s Angels” is better than cheap gimmicks, and though it’s not perfect, “Angels” certainly makes the case that sometimes digging up old properties could use a woman’s touch.