Charlie's Angels (2019)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/16/19
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, cameos by Jaclyn Smith, Danica Patrick, Ronda Rousey, Laverne Cox, Hailee Steinfeld, Chloe Kim

Charlie Townsend's original Bosley (Patrick Stewart) retires after forty years of service with the agency, which has now gone global. Meanwhile, scientist Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) finds a deadly flaw in a power supply that she's developing, but upper management dismisses her findings and ignores her warnings in favor of launching their product on schedule. Her frustration and anguish are all too familiar, as this has happened to me in my career more times than I care to recall. Her helplessness and moral dread lead her to engage the Townsend Agency for assistance, which quickly escalates into a large scale attempt on her life. Another Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) assembles a team consisting of ex-MI6 agent Jane (Ella Balinska) and reckless field agent Sabina (Kristen Stewart) to infiltrate Houghlin's company and recover her research and prototypes, but the enemy is always one step ahead. Elena eventually joins the fight as a highly skilled hacker, and the Angels eventually come out on top.

The film starts off disastrously, with a cringe-inducing and overly preachy opening sequence that's as blunt and heavy-handed as a sledge hammer. Fortunately, things improve considerably after the bad guys show up and start chasing Elena, which allows the film to focus on more important things, like action and character development. The women are incredible. They're smart, focused, athletic, charismatic, and look fantastic. A raucous and riveting Kristen Stewart is absolutely astonishing and completely mesmerizing to watch, while an eager and overwhelmed Naomi Scott's wide-eyed confusion and naïveté are endearing and adorable. Beautiful Ella Balinska towers over everyone else and gets the lion's share of the action, and is delightfully engaging. Out of everyone, Elizabeth Banks is probably the weakest link, but she gets better as the film progresses.

While the action is fun and plentiful, the choreography and cinematography are a bit weak and the editing is terrible. Thankfully, given the grittier tone of the film, all of the fight scenes are ground-based and more natural looking than the Hong Kong flair and campy attitude of the previous reboot. It's just unfortunate that the action is filmed and edited so poorly, which seems like a horribly wasted opportunity. The pop music soundtrack is regrettable, but I'm probably not the demographic that the filmmakers are targeting. The dialog stumbles more often than not, but there are several clever lines and jokes sprinkled throughout. However, the film works best when there's less talking and more doing. The Girl Power message is loud and clear throughout the entire picture, but the epilogue is especially empowering and made me want to cheer out loud. As Elena goes through Angel boot camp, she encounters Jaclyn Smith, Danica Patrick, Ronda Rousey, and Laverne Cox, as well as a host of other real-life female heroes, champions, and role models. It's definitely not a perfect movie and it struggles to even be a good movie, but as a piece of sexy pop culture fluff, I enjoyed it immensely.