Charlie's Angels (3 stars)

Charlie's Angels

Kristen Stewart and co are great in this enjoyable but insubstantial revamp from Elizabeth Banks

Elizabeth Banks writes, directs, produces and stars as Bosley in this Charlie's Angels revamp for the Me Too era. Not technically a reboot, it directly references the history of the women involved in the now-international spy agency through its various incarnations – from the original 1976 TV show, to the McG-directed noughties blockbusters starring Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore (listed here as an executive producer). Giving major props to the Angels' legacy with loving nods to the women involved works in its favour, as it strikes a spirited and knowing tone that acknowledges the perils and pitfalls of the business.

Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska star as the talented trio: Sabina, Elena and Jane respectively. The opening scene introduces Sabina taking down a sexist man with the flagrantly feminist dialogue expressing the sentiment that women are capable of anything. If a line about attractiveness and invisibility is tone-deaf – all women are potential targets – the film pulls it back with a cast that spark off one another and spend the entire film taking down various wealthy and corrupt businessmen. One such bastard even spends most of the movie in a panama hat.

Jane's invention of a clean energy device, Calisto, sets the story in motion, with greedy magnates lining up to weaponise it. As Jane is drawn into the Angels' fold from her job as a scientist, Balinska proves a natural with the humour, especially in plucky hand-to-hand combat sequences where she literally smacks a villain round the head with a computer screen and mouse. Stewart, too, is a comedic revelation and her endearing buddy-cop dynamic with the more reserved Elena works a treat. Scott's is a confident physical performance and her character's geeky flirtation with Noah Centineo's scientist is amusing.

The momentum dips in the middle, but a banging dance sequence towards the end revitalises the action with sparkling wit, a gloriously vicious assassination and choreography that recalls Destiny's Child's music video for 'Independent Woman', which featured on the soundtrack to the 2000 film. Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey and Miley Cyrus attempt to emulate the success of that iconic song with the underwhelming 'Don't Call Me Angel', which plays over the end credits here. Fun for the most part but lacking in real bite, Banks delivers an enjoyable mainstream movie that aspires to mark the progression in the never-ending fight for equality, despite peddling an outdated brand of 'girl power' style feminism itself.

General release from Fri 29 Nov.

Charlie's Angels

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 59min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
  • Cast: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Patrick Stewart

Sabina (Stewart), Elena (Scott) and Jane (Balinska) are the titular trio, sparking off each other while they take down various wealthy and corrupt businessmen. Stewart is a comedic revelation, Balinska is a natural and Scott gives a confident physical performance, but while it’s fun for the most part, it lacks bite.