Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Djimon Hounsou, Nat Faxon, Noah Centineo
Despite writer, director, producer and star Elizabeth Banks (Pitch Perfect, Love & Mercy) proving there is a bit more mileage in a franchise that’s been around since the 70’s; Charlie’s Angels newest revival is still an unnecessary commodity. Nearly a decade since Barrymore, Diaz and Lui first rebooted the original TV show, Banks version is less comedy and more action. Charlie’s Angels functions in part Sony’s gender flipped response to Fox’s (now Disney’s) The Kingsman series. There are guns in this one, unlike last decades version which Barrymore fought against. The plot for any modern day action movie is always some eager scientist developing modern technology which will be used against humanity. These plots are always dispensable, meaning the acting, effects and suspense have to compensate. As expected, Stewart (Lizzie, JT LeRoy) is the stand out, again redefining limitations placed on her endless talent.
Lead scientist and creator of The Calisto project, Elena Houghlin (Scott), has serious concerns about a noted flaw that could weaponize the self-contained energy source that’s going to revolutionize clean energy. Her superiors are not interested in caution, so she contacts the Charlie Townsend Spy Agency. When Charlie’s Angels get involved, Elena realizes the severity of the situation, as dangerous men start trying to kill her. Former MI-6, Angel Jane Kano (Balinska) and deadly ditz Sabina Wilson (Stewart) are the two experts assigned for her protection. Introduced to a world of Bosley’s, secret weapons and curiously strong Altoids, Elena’s fear gives way to fascination. The trio along with Angel turned Bosley (Banks), globe trot chasing the now missing Calisto device in an attempt to recover and disarm, before worse hands take hold.
Banks version of Charlie’s Angels isn’t interested improving on what’s already out there as much as it expands beyond the limitations of the previous iterations.
Banks version of Charlie’s Angels isn’t interested improving on what’s already out there as much as it expands beyond the limitations of the previous iterations. There are little to no love interest moments (aside from a brief flirtation between Centineo’s brief role and Balinska for rescuing him), and aside from one barely noticeable scene where Sabina flirts with another girl, this film is focused on the task at hand. Unlike Oceans 8 or female Ghostbusters, Charlie’s Angels was already an established all women franchise, so there isn’t the awkward explanation of assemblage you notice in other gender converted property’s. Speaking of which, this version doesn’t ignore those preceding it, in fact Banks with just one witty scene, explains their history in the story.
Like most filmmakers drawing experience from previous work, Banks does so a bit more literally. You find homage’s to Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, Power Rangers and more if you know your Elisabeth Banks filmography. Stewarts distance between breaking out in the Twilight series, and becoming a new generations indie film darling, makes her an peculiar choice for an action movie reboot. Not the go to actress when you think of comic relief, but Stewart is the best thing about every scene she’s in. Her charm, seemingly effortless comedic timing improves on what Diaz and Barrymore were aiming for between their two characters. Claflin (The Nightingale) playing a villain is a stereotype, but it’s at least got a high pitched spin to go along with it. What Charlie’s Angels never finds is the brilliant lunacy of Sam Rockwell’s wacky villain of the 2000 film, in fact the men in the script are severely underwritten and forgettable, probably just as well. Well-paced and edited, rarely does a dull moment find it’s way into the rhythm and even when it does, the hairdo and outfit changes are as entertaining as the action itself.
Filmmaker Elizabeth Banks delivers a pleasant surprise for a franchise reboot no one asked for.