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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Charlie’s Angels, Review: Bossy angels and Bosleys

Charlie’s Angels, Review: Bossy angels and Bosleys

A dozen or more women in breath-taking action is not a common feature on the Hollywood screen, or, for that matter, on any screen. Charlie’s Angels take on a charity thief and some invention grabbers in an adventure that takes them from Brazil to Hamburg to Turkey. Along the way, you discover that all the men in the film, bar two, are either evil or bumped off or both. There is an action overdose on occasions when it was not required and too much chatter in between that detracts from what could have been a far more entertaining take on an all-woman do-gooder, NGO.

In Rio de Janeiro, a man is having a conversation with an attractive woman. He is trying to seduce her. She seems to be playing along, although the conversation is about what women can do and ought to do, and what they cannot or ought not to do. Soon it turns out that the seduction game is part of a plan to trap Jonny Smith, the Australian, who steals charity money and relief material meant for the third world. And moments later, he learns who is the boss. John ‘Bosley’, a rank equivalent to that of a lieutenant in the Townsend Agency of ‘Charlie’s Angels’, emerges from the shadows and takes Jonny captive. There is some palpable rivalry seen between two of the angels, Sabina and Jane. Sabina was the girl doing the seduction while Jane seems to push her of a ledge afterwards, but Sabina is safely picked up by a helicopter. This Bosley, John, one of the earliest lieutenants who trained many of the angels, is an old man now, and is retired and given a send-off.

When a young systems engineer, Elena Houghlin, blows the whistle on a dangerous technology called Calisto, she is put in contact with Charlie’s Angels. A meeting is set-up in a café, where she brings along a pen-drive that contains all the evidence to prove that the technology, a smart substitute for electricity, can be misused to kill people. At the café, a tough as nails assassin tries to kill her. Sabina and Jane escape with Elena and Dessange in a vehicle, but the assassin gives hot chase in a car that is loaded with ammunition and is almost indestructible. He manages to crash their car, which falls into water. Dessange dies of bullet wounds, but the other three manage to survive. The pen-drive, unfortunately, sinks to the bottom. Elena and the Angels’s troubles have just begun.

The Lion King 1 ½ , Jungle Book 2, Tarzan 2, Cinderella III, Battle for Terra, Wanted 2, Ouija, Asteroids, SEAL Team 666, Hercules, The Huntsman: Winter`s War and Beauty and the Beast, are some of the films that Greek-American Evan Spiliotopoulos has written, and he is terrified of flying. David Auburn is a 50 year-old playwright who has won a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his best-known play Proof, which he also adapted for the screen. He wrote the screenplay for the film The Lake House. His short play, What Do You Believe about the Future?, appeared in Harper’s magazine and was adapted for the screen. In 2007, he made his directorial debut, with The Girl in the Park, for which he also wrote the screenplay. These are the two gentlemen that wrote the story of Charlie’s Angels 2019, which is based on a TV series called Charlie's Angels, by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, and was first aired in 1976. The screenplay is done by director-actress Elizabeth Banks herself.

A dangerous invention, a whistle-blower, several ruthless agents after it, double-crossing, red herrings, what appears is not and what does not appear is…these are plot points that ensure an endless supply of storylines to the fodder hungry action-adventure drama genre. The only unique thing about Charlie’s Angels would be that these angels are all woman and they fight like hell. Yes, there are three main Bosleys in this picture. One is killed, another retired and the third is…you guessed it, is a woman. On the side-lines is one male who is called the Saint, who looks after the fitness of the Angels, both physical and mental, which includes monitoring electrolyte levels. There’s another male called Langston, who works in the lab and develops a crush on one of the Angels. All the other men are on the wrong side of the law. Hey…what about Charlie himself? Or is it herself? Haven’t you heard him speak? No spoilers here, please.

It is some car that Hodak, the assassin drives, and some ammunition he wields! Daredevil Angel Sabina opens the hood of her car and fires back, and it is a wonder that this sitting duck of a target is not hit by any of the 10,000 bullets that Hodak sprays. And just when he had the trio about to drown and in desperate need of air, he does not wait, but does the unthinkable—he just walks away. What a rough cut that was! John Bosley is given a watch as a parting gift, and gets suspicious. He shows it to a watch-repairer, who takes it apart and finds nothing wrong with it. Then he hugs John, and the watch beeps. They exchange a knowing look. Knowing what? We are not told. Plus there is too much confusion about how many parties are involved in the chase and what are their respective roles. Confusion confounded, in the two key scenes—one at the Brock lab, where the Angels break-in despite sky-high security, and another at the stone quarry, which is the setting for the climax.

Dialogue is often used to create humour, and some offending words have been muted, probably to appease the censors. A couple of sexual innuendo-laden lines have managed to sneak through, not being direct references to sex or anatomy. Action, though overdone at times, is breath-taking. The influence of James Bond’s Q (weapons Quartermaster) department is too obvious to ignore. A whole clutch of gear is laid at the disposal of the beauties. Dialogue is too much and too fast, and if you are thinking that the sub-titles will take care of that, think again. They flash by equally fast. Why cannot a 118-minute film go easy on the ears? Making Jane Kano a former MI6 agent was a good idea. Also, her track in Turkey, with a former MI6 associate, Fatima Ahmed, was well-handled.

Performances are undistinguished, and distinguishing performances were not needed.

Kristen Stewart as Sabina Wilson, Naomi Scott as Elena Houghlin, the scientist and creator of the Calisto project, Ella Balinska as Jane Kano, a former MI-6 agent who became an Angel,

Elizabeth Banks (Madame Directeur) as Rebekah Bosley, a former Angel who became one of Charlie's assistants, Djimon Hounsou as Edgar Dessange Bosley, one of Charlie's assistants, Sam Claflin as Alexander Brock, Elena's employer, whose character slips into caricature towards the end, Noah Centineo as Langston, Elena's assistant, Patrick Stewart as John Bosley, Charlie's first and original assistant (previously played by Bill Murray) does a fairly decent job, as does Marie-Lou Sellem as Fatima. Luis Gerardo Méndez as The Saint looks and talks too smoothly to be real, Jonathan Tucker as Hodak, an assassin (easily Bond material), Chris Pang as Jonny Smith—the Australian, comes across as a little too lovelorn and even namby-pamby for his part, Nat Faxon as Peter Fleming, Elena's superior who is Mr. Mean and has an agenda of his own (the dialogue between him and Elena was an inspired bit), Robert Clotworthy as the voice of Charles ‘Charlie’ Townsend, the owner of the Townsend agency (previously played by John Forsythe), whose troops are called Charlie’s Angels. There’s a chap called Murali Perumal, who acts at Pradeep Prasad, one of the techies in Elena’s lab.

I liked the part when Sabina describes the Angels as an NGO, and the piece about Hamburgers and Frankfurters, and not because I like those two snacks.

If you remember the 2000 version, you might recall Drew Barrymore as one of the Angels. Well, she is an Executive Producer 19 years later. Elizabeth Banks (real surname Mitchell) acted in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, W. and the Hunger Games. She’s now 45, and makes no special effort to look 25. Banks started a production company with her husband, Max Handelman, and the two have produced Surrogates and the three Pitch Perfect movies. She made her directorial debut with the second Pitch Perfect film, followed by The Happytime Murders, and then then came Charlie’s Angels reboot.

See it and you’ll be okay. Don’t see it, and you won’t miss much.

Rating: ** ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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