Movie Review: ‘Charlie’s Angels’

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Cast: Kirsten Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sir Patrick Stewart, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo

Plot: A pair of highly trained spies and their handler go into the field to protect a scientist who believes her new energy saving technology could be sold as a weapon.

Review: Charlie’s Angels is a classic pitch. Three kick-ass female spies working for an unseen benefactor, getting into costumed hijinks and doing awesome stunts. It’s little wonder that it keeps coming back around. It’s a solid base on which to build a lot of fun. McG gave a us a goofy fun reboot in 2000, but following it up with a stupidly bad sequel sunk the chances on an ongoing series.

Now we have another new version, and this one isn’t stupidly bad. It’s embarrassingly bad. It’s completely incompetent on almost every level. This is a really bad movie is what we’re saying.

Our entry point character is Elena (Scott), a scientist who has developed a gadget that provides an immense amount of clean energy from a hand-held, wireless device. When her reports that a vulnerability in the system could lead it to be weaponised (by acting as an EMP for the human body…or something) are suppressed she turns whistleblower and contacts the Townsend Agency. A pair of ‘Angels’, highly skilled female spies, and a ‘Bosley’, their handler, approach Elena and take her under their protection. When they suspect that the agency has a mole they pursue the case to the top.

The story is serviceable but the execution is a complete mess. There’s a number of characters who get introduced for one or two scenes only to be wheeled out as integral to the plot during the final act. The whole script needed a fresh set of eyes to pick out these problems, instead we are left with improbable nonsense to drive the story forward such as someone stretching a ancient geiger counter over a counter while he gave someone a hug so they can stumble upon a tracking device. A closer look at the script might’ve pointed out that Charlie – that dude in the title – never speaks to the Angels themselves at all until halfway through the end credits. It shouldn’t be hard to have Charlie interact the Angels in Charlie’s Angels. And yet they managed it.

Then there’s the spycraft, which should be fun and easy but the characters are completely brainless. Take for example a scene where the heroes need to find out who the mid-tier bad guy is going to sell the technology to. So they track him to an Istanbul market where they trip him up and grab his phone so they can quickly swap out the sim card before returning it to him. Using the sim card they find that he’s going to a horse race with lots of rich people attending, so they launch a big operation to sneak in at different levels and scan the entire crowd one by one until they can work out who the buyer is likely to be. This is all pointless, however, because they see the mid-tier bad guy with the guy he’s selling to.

So it’s pointless from a narrative stand-point, but it also makes no sense in the world of the film. You’d think that these expert secret agents would think to just…follow the mid-tier bad guy? They had their hands on him and his phone, they could’ve slipped a tracking device on him and find out who he meets with that way.

Even more perplexingly, scriptwriter Banks named two characters of equal importance ‘John’. I feel like you could’ve come up with something else for one of these characters. It makes as much sense as the characters taking their client into the field and treating them as an agent…which they also do. Several times.

Whilst we’re complaining, we don’t see the point of turning this new technology into a weapon. Yes, it would be able to be able to set off a small bomb that would kill anyone standing close to it (kind of like a normal bomb, I suppose) anywhere in the world, but this is a gadget the size of a small bowl that can immediately produce enough clean energy to power a skyscraper containing multiple high-tech laboratories…maybe more, that was just a demonstration of it’s power. If you have the technology to completely replace all forms of energy production and retire within a week as the richest person in history, why do you care about making a weapon? We have weapons that can remotely kill people, this is an insane amount of energy production and that is substantially more valuable.

Also, only one person uses it to kill someone and it’s our hero. Then they crack jokes about it for the rest of the film. Maybe they shouldn’t be trying to retrieve it for her.

At this point we usually say that despite all the nonsense the action is fun, but this is among the worst filmed and edited action we’ve seen in a big-budget movie. There is a complete disregard of spatial continuity, a record number of continuity breaking jump cuts and everything is shot in close-up shaky-cam. It’s so bad it caused us nausea and mild headaches trying to follow it. Thank goodness most of the two-hour running time features characters sitting around discussing the plot because we couldn’t handle more of this rubbish.

I’ve gotten to the point where I feel bad for ragging on this so much, because I sure haven’t made a movie anything recently and nor could I. Elizabeth Banks served as writer, director, actor in a lead role and producer for this movie, which makes us wonder how much oversight there was for a relatively new director and writer. The main producer is only working on his second film…I would suggest pairing Banks up with an experienced producer who could provide some much needed guidance.

It’s at the end of the review that we remember that we didn’t say anything about the characters because…well, there’s nothing to say. Kirsten Stewart is the rebellious one and Ella Balinska is the cool one. I don’t even remember their character names. For all the flaws of the McG films – and there were many – the characters were unique and fun enough to remember their names (Natalie, Dylan and Alex) almost twenty years later.

This movie is a waste of almost 50 million dollars. The only fun we had were the nods to the previous entries in the franchise.

Rating: ONE out of TEN