At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Charlie’s Angels “2019”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Charlie’s Angels “2019”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action-Comedy/Stars: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Nat Faxon, Patrick Stewart, Chris Pang, Jonathan Tucker, Luis Gerardo Méndez, David Schütter, Hannah Hoekstra, Marie-Lou Sellem, Hailee Steinfeld, Lili Reinhart, Aly Raisman, Huda Kattan, Chloe Kim, Ronda Rousey, Danica Patrick, Laverne Cox, Michael Strahan, Jaclyn Smith; Voice of: Robert Clotworthy/Runtime: 118 minutes

I think I can safely say dear reader that when I first got word that no less a talent than Elizabeth Banks was tasked with rebooting iconic 70s/80s franchise (that had seen two prior cinematic installments in 2000 and 2003 plus an excruciating in terms of how much I wanted it to just get off my TV programming as soon as possible 2011 remake respectively) Charlie’s Angels I had only a single word response. That of course being “Why?”. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: Elizabeth Banks is an immensely talented actress be it in a goofy horror comedy like Slither from 2006, dramas like Seabiscuit from 2003, and of course movies for younger adults (or kids as I hear that they are called nowadays) like The LEGO Movie and YA literary adaptations like The Hunger Games franchise to name but a few examples. It’s just that following the release of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle in 2003 it really did feel like at long last that the Angels were getting the chance to just go off into the sunset. Or at least that’s how it appeared before they were rudely brought back to Earth in 2011 with that atrocious TV revamp that left fans of this franchise more than just a tad bit peeved (though I actually think the better word would be downright irate). So I guess to me, and a lot of other people apparently, there was a fear in our hearts dear reader that we were just going to be disappointed once more by what we were given thus adding yet another blemish to the legacy of a franchise that certainly didn’t deserve that. Imagine my surprise then to learn that, despite being flawed, this slice of cinema really isn’t all that bad. I mean sure the narrative is extremely run of the mill to the point that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if you were able to predict just how everything from beginning to end is going to play out. At the same time though, the acting in front of the camera by this slice of cinema’s cast of players is not that bad, the action beats are fairly intriguing, and the work done behind the camera is certainly capable. Suffice it to say then that no the 2019 take on Charlie’s Angels is not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination so if you go into it expecting it to be then be prepared to be disappointed. At the same time though, this is a fun, to say nothing of capably made on both sides of the camera, little popcorn film that should fulfill that need for viewing material on a rainy or stormy day just fine.

The plot is as follows: the 2019 take on Charlie’s Angels gets underway in no less a locale than exotic Rio de Janeiro as we witness a scene that should be quite familiar to all of us. That being a young man named Jonny and a young woman named Sabina engaging in a more than slightly sexist yet also low-key flirty discussion about how he feels that just because a woman could do anything in our modern world doesn’t mean that they should. Yet this isn’t an ordinary conversation and these are not a pair of ordinary people. A fact that soon becomes apparent when Sabina is able to subdue Jonny using no less than the curtains and is then joined by another woman named Jane in beating the snot out of both Jonny and his two closest bodyguards before making their getaway with the aid of a handler calling himself John Bosley. Indeed, in case you hadn’t put two and five together, Jonny is a highly sought-after member of the criminal community whilst Sabina and Jane are employees of a certain iconic group known as the Townsend Agency. A group that utilizes brilliant, fearless, and fairly beautiful women to operate as highly skilled private investigators for an unseen and enigmatic employer by the name of Charlie. Yet whereas at one time this particular agency was limited to the city of Los Angeles, we see that in the years since its Inception it has managed to expand and become an international organization with teams of women and handlers codenamed Bosley all over the world fighting the good fight and kicking some serious bad guy butt along the way. Moving things ahead about a year, we see that the European division of the Townsend Agency requests Sabina and Jane’s help with an assignment. It seems a highly skilled tech developer by the name of Elena Houghlin has some serious misgivings about a new program she has been working on named Calisto due to certain glitches that could prove to be quite problematic and, having tried and failed to warn her superiors about this potential peril, is prepared to blow the whistle on the tech before it can be put into operation. Yet during the initial meeting with Elena, we see that things quickly go sideways when an assassin named Hodak disrupts the meeting and tries to silence Elena permanently. Thankfully, we see that Jane and Sabina are able to prevent that from happening though not before Hodak is able to take Elena’s data on Calisto that she was in the process of turning over. Thus it is now up to our dynamic trio, with the aid of yet another Bosley, to not only determine who is the mastermind of this dastardly scheme, but to recover Calisto and prevent it from being utilized for nefarious means no matter what the cost…..

Now in terms of the work being done behind the camera, it should be noted that this slice of cinema is one that by and large works mostly on possessing wonderful degrees of both energy and charm in equal measure. In terms of the work in the helmer’s chair I will say that although this slice of cinema is most definitely a step up in many respects from Pitch Perfect 2 (a sentence I wrote while ducking behind my chair so you Pitch Perfect fans didn’t viciously start throwing things at me), Elizabeth Banks definitely still has a long road ahead of her before she manages to direct a genuinely great film. To be sure, this slice of cinema does possess a solid amount of extremely well-designed visual work that is reinforced wonderfully by both some lively production design and some absolutely beautiful costume work, but is then let down by the fact that this slice of cinema doesn’t have what you consider a singular vision. As a result, if you are one who is excited to know what a film directed by Elizabeth Banks looks like….I don’t think this film is really going to answer that question. Indeed, if there is any component to her style that remains consistent throughout, it would be the heart and genuine passion that she, along with everyone else on both sides of the camera, clearly had while bringing this slice of cinema to life.  Along with that, I think praise should also be given for the fact that, despite having a budget of only 48-55 million, the action beats and overall production never once give off the vibe of being cheap or watered down in any way as you are still gifted with the typical elements for a slice of cinema like this one. Yet what the film had to forfeit in terms of style and gonzo spectacle, it also managed to acquire a more grounded form of action. To be sure, this slice of cinema is by no means a bloodbath that you’ll think twice before showing your kids, but the fights do look quite painful and people do die when the story politely yet firmly asks that they do. More than anything though, if there is one big issue I have with the work being done behind the camera it’s that I wish the script had made the antagonists in this one a lot more vibrant and lively as that is a key reason the first film from 2000 still holds up all these years later. Indeed by not really having anything akin to insane silent ninja Crispin Glover, dancing megalomaniac Sam Rockwell, or dressed up in a sumo costume Tim Curry, and instead going down a route that another 70s TV show adaptation did back in the day (if you know, you know. If not then good) the film really suffers as a result. Having said that though, I understand that the reason they did it in this one is because they really did want to distinguish this film from the other works in the franchise whereas in that other adaptation I was referring to they did it because….actually I don’t know why they did it. That’s a really good question…At any rate it should be said that the work done behind the camera is good but alas also nothing really special to write home about either.

Of course, the other big element to a popcorn movie working on the level that it needs to in order to be as enjoyable as possible would have to be that the cast of players who are operating in front of the camera are able to cut loose and have as much fun portraying their respective characters as possible. Suffice it to say that is definitely the case with this film as every single member of this cast of players looks to be having an absolute blast. This starts with Naomi Scott who, as the only non-Angel affiliated character in the cast, is a genuine delight as Elena. Indeed, not only does she do an effective job of operating as the eyes of the audience into this familiar yet significantly expanded on world, but Scott also does terrific when leaning into some of her character’s slightly more blunder-worthy moments whilst out in the field with her two fellow co-leads phenomenally well including a moment of brilliantly choregraphed combat that is a true highlight. Not just for her character mind you, but for the movie overall. Suffice it to say that it is a fairly good performance and one that shows particular skill for the actress in the action-comedy genre of movie magic. We also get a really freaking good performance here from Ella Balinska in the role of former MI6 agent turned Angel Jane Kano. Indeed not only does Balinska play the typically stoic yet lethal spy here phenomenally well complete with some truly incredible stunt work, but she also is able to balance that part out with a very pathos-driven arc in this that really does help make her the most three dimensional out of the three leads in this. Out of the main trio however, I can safely say without a doubt in my mind that the MVP has to be Kristen Stewart in the role of the de-facto comedy relief Sabina Wilson. Indeed not only does she contribute a collection of one-liners that will make you at the very least chuckle as well as a wonderful kick butt attitude, but Stewart brings such a genuine joy and passion to the part that you can’t help but enjoy being around her in every single minute of screentime she is given in this. Suffice it to say that whilst all three of our quasi-sorta leads in this are truly wonderful on their own, I can also say that by managing to bring them together that this slice of cinema is able to beautifully conjure up a key ingredient that has long been at the heart of this distinct franchise. That being a lead trio who are engaging, riveting, and just plain fun to watch work and kick some serious bad guy butt together in equal measure. Besides the main trio however we see that this slice of cinema also manages to come equipped with a pretty freaking good support cast that actually fit their characters pretty well instead of just being there to elevate the film off their star power alone. This starts with screen icon Sir Patrick Stewart who, in the role of the OG Bosley, not only is a true blast to say nothing of a pretty ingenious casting choice, but also does a great job in the role despite being giving a subplot in this that is more than a tad bit on the convoluted side. We also get a really good performance here from Djimon Hounsou who as another Bosley in the Agency despite the fact that he doesn’t have much in the way of screentime. Along with this pair, we are also provided a couple of fairly engaging turns from both the amusing Noah Centineo as one of Elena’s co-workers and Sam Claflin who continues in his mission to play just about any part that is assigned to him as the CEO of the company Elena works for Alexander Brok. Out of the support cast though, the one that I think does the best is the role of the quiet killer Hodak played brilliantly by Jonathan Tucker. Indeed, not only does Tucker make this guy look imposing, but also instills in him a vibe of menace as well thus increasing the level of suspense every time he’s on screen exponentially.

All in all and at the end of the day is the 2019 take on Charlie’s Angels a perfect slice of cinema? As twistedly amusing as it would be for me to say “absolutely” while smiling the biggest smile possible I also promised you dear reader that I would be as honest as I could be with you so I’m afraid the answer to that question is actually “no”. At the same time though, is this a film that is a complete and utter catastrophe in every sense of the word? Honestly, I wouldn’t say that either. If anything, I think the best way to describe this slice of cinema is “flawed yet fun”. Indeed the work behind the camera is certainly capable and the work in front of the camera by this slice of cinema’s talented cast of players is definitely a treat as not only do each and every one of them know the exact kind of movie that they are making, but they all play their parts with such genuine joy, heart, and enthusiasm that you can’t help but let them take you by the hand on this delightful little cinematic journey. Suffice it to say that the 2019 take on Charlie’s Angels might not win any major awards, sorry Charlie, but there is one thing it does do fairly well. That being to just drop any and all pretension whatsoever at the proverbial curb, cut loose, and let you the viewer have just as much fun watching it as those involved on both sides of the camera seemed to have bringing it to life for your viewing pleasure. A feat that, more often than not incidentally, is a form of movie magic all its own. Make of that dear reader what thou will. On a scale of 1-5 I give Charlie’s Angels “2019” a solid 3 out of 5.