Charlie’s Angels, 2019.
Written and Directed by Elizabeth Banks.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Jonathan Tucker, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Nat Faxon, and Chris Pang.
When a systems engineer blows the whistle on a dangerous technology, Charlie’s Angels from across the globe are called into action, putting their lives on the line to protect society.
Elizabeth Banks has proven herself somewhat capable of directing (a drop in quality from Pitch Perfect 2 to 3 was noticeably large, with her only acting in the latter movie), meaning the real test for her Charlie’s Angels franchise continuation (this is not a remake) is if she can write a script. More challenging, it also needs to justify bringing back the property once more following a semi-popular television series back in the 80s and a pair of film adaptations that weren’t exactly solid enough to elicit excitement for the arrival of this return. With assistance from Evan Spiliotopoulos (the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast) and David Auburn credited as conjuring up the story blueprint, that goal is not achieved.
Flat is the best word to describe watching this 2019 iteration of Charlie’s Angels, which is made all the more frustrating considering how far feminism has come, whistleblowers of all areas coming to light with shocking developments, and the fact that a woman is now steering the ship for this IP; there is no excuse to come across as flat. Instead, it’s overly long at two hours desperately trying to catch viewers off-guard with a twist as the rest goes through the motions of unmemorable action and bland characters. To the film’s credit, there is one surprise all the way during the climax that is clever, but by then there have been at least three misdirections as to who the real villain is (it’s also important to note that it’s predictable on a scene-to-scene basis), meaning we no longer care.
That’s actually impressive considering someone gets impaled here, which is a questionable choice given the PG-13 rating rather than exhilarating; does someone really need to get bloodlessly impaled in a Charlie’s Angels movie? The answer is no, and for the record, this is not the only moment where the movie plays with rough violence, throwing the tone of this light action comedy out of whack. Thankfully, a few of the action sequences are not entirely bad, just misguided if anything. There’s a part involving an Angel rappelling across buildings that has some decent cinematography behind it, a creative heist involving the team appearing identical, and a fight inside of an office building making use of random objects as weapons that nonetheless starts off amusing before ending up prolonged to the point where the joke is no longer funny. The rest are either hand-to-hand fight scenes or car chases that are rapidly cut together, seemingly unable to linger a single frame from more than one second.
Nevertheless, Charlie’s Angels does have some intriguing acting choices to comprise the trio, some famous and some relatively unknown. After finding unquantifiable success taking on daring independent film roles and winning the French equivalent to an Oscar a while back, Kristen Stewart returns to mainstream cinema but it’s difficult to understand why in regards to this project. She is fed annoyingly quirky dialogue (sometimes it’s framed as if she is talking to the camera) that feels more suited for a Kate McKinnon role, and it just doesn’t work even with the energy she provides. Naomi Scott (who could be perceived as having a breakout role in this year’s live-action version of Aladdin) is effective as the trainee (her willingness to speak the truth pertaining to the intentions behind the power supply company she works for) while Ella Balinska ts given the brunt of the action (she’s also heavily into science, which is more fun to watch her use to her advantage than the choppy combat on display), yet both are more uninteresting than Kristen Stewart’s character. At least she has distinctive personality traits. It might be an offputting one that’s never as hilarious as the film believes her lines are, but it is something to cling onto.
The plot is ridiculous, which is fine, although some aspects go overboard with camp. Not to spoil anything, but Patrick Stewart has some embarrassing material as John Bosley (originally played by Bill Murray) entering retirement. There’s also a cringe-worthy subplot involving a villain that continuously flirts with Kristen Stewart even during action segments. The only entertaining character (for the right reasons, anyway) is a jacked and tattooed assassin hunting down the Angels, putting animated facial expressions and silence to good use.
Again, the Angels themselves are forgettable, wasting a perfect opportunity to turn the spy genre on its head. Even when the movie tries to promote the idea of women working together(one of the Angels prefers to lunge into fights alone) the sentiment is never done so with meaning. It’s hard to imagine Charlie’s Angels satisfying anyone, let alone its female-centric target demographic.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com