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"Charlie's Angels"

Directed by McG.
Written by Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon and John August.
Starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  11/5/00 


I have been looking forward to killing this movie ever since I saw the first preview for it two months ago, and I am happy to report that, while I cannot give it my lowest rating available, I am still gonna run it into the ground.

Unless you have been living in a cave, you know that “Charlie's Angels” is based on the 1970s television series of the same name.  In that series, three beautiful women work as private investigators for an anonymous millionaire named Charlie, getting missions in briefings from a middle man that works with Charlie and then going out and fighting all manners of bad guys in and around Los Angeles.  Like “Mission: Impossible”, the women were usually undercover in disguise and used their esteemed looks and charm—not to mention their smarts—to foil the forces of evil.

And so, keeping faithful to the show, the 2000 update of “Charlie's Angels” keeps the setup intact.  This time, the Angels (Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu) have to locate the designer of some voice-recognition software (Sam Rockwell) who has been kidnapped, quite possibly by a competitor (Tim Curry), and then the Angels need to locate the software itself.  To be honest, the plot is useless and at some point it becomes so convoluted—and then very tritely explained to us as if we were fourth graders—that you could care less why the Angels are doing what they are doing.

And really, I don't want to talk about the plot anyway.  Like the TV show, the writing here is very easy on the mind to digest and doesn't get in the way too much of the action.

What I really want to talk about today is the action in this film.  As many of you know, I am a die-hard action-adventure fan, and further, I am a HUGE John Woo fan.  Nothing makes me happier than to show supposed hard-core action fans a copy of “The Killer” or “Hard Boiled”, quite simply the two best shoot-'em-ups ever made.  Both were directed by Woo and star Chow Yun-Fat, by far the greatest actor on God's green earth.  And, both employ large portions of Woo's patented slow-motion choreography, making his bloody epics look more beautiful than a naked Jennifer Lopez on your doorstep.

So, you can imagine the absolute horror on my face when the first action sequence in “Charlie's Angels” begins.  As you have probably seen in the preview, the action looks very “Matrix”-esque, with lots of spinning, flipping martial arts action.

(Lots of profanity will be used below.)

Okay, so here is the setup:  The angels are chasing the bad guy's main henchman (Crispin Glover; if he looks familiar to you, just go back and watch “Back to the Future”) through an alley, and finally they get to a fence.  There are some boxes in front of this fence, stacked maybe eight feet high.  Some extremely hard-driving music by the Crystal Method starts playing, and then Glover jumps *over* the boxes, turns 180 degrees, whips out a pistol, and fires a full clip at the Angels, naturally missing all three of the girls.  Of course, all of this is shown in the increasingly-abused stop-start cinematography method, which “Charlie's Angels” bitch-slaps until it is black and blue.  (I call it this because in a scene, the movie is shown in almost fast-forward until a moment of action, then the action is shown in super-slo-mo, and then the film is sped up again to normal speed.)

After Glover finishes firing, he essentially jumps over a 10-foot-high chain-link fence.  Not climbed, mind you...JUMPED.  Then, the Angels follow suit (Diaz gets a lift over from the other two Angels, then the other two just jump over the fence, too).  The martial arts that takes place after all four are on the other side of the fence is not just bad, it is offensive.  I mean, this is some fucking shit!  This one scene alone should make hard-core action fans walk out of the theater.  There are more wireline stunts in this one scene alone than there is rice in China.  I mean, come on!  My jaw was touching the fucking floor as Glover would land a kick in an Angel's chest, and she would fly 20 or 30 feet, through a fence or into a brick wall, then get up and keep fighting!  The writers of this movie are actually betting on the fact that either you did not see “The Matrix” or any other martial arts movie ever made, because the writers and the film's director, some muthafucka named “McG” (that is his fucking name!!) steal from movies of the very recent past like their lives depended on it!!  I mean, this is brutal!  I don't mind bad...but, I do mind bad and ripped off, and this scene is the basis for all of the suffering in our world.  I went to the theater by myself, and I was looking for someone to just look at and say “are you kidding me?”  I was so pissed off yesterday after just this one scene, because it is literally offensive to the regular moviegoer.

The other action sequences are like this:  an inordinate number of kicks thrown by the angels hit their target after they have been in the air for about 15 feet.  I mean, by the time Barrymore is bound to a chair and kicking five henchmen all over creation, you aren't even laughing anymore because it has gone beyond ridiculous.  She eventually sheds the chair and jumps up (while her hands are still tied behind her back) and lands a perfect split kick that sends two men flying in the air off-screen and into a wall.  Even comic books don't make kicks look this ridiculous.

There are other things about the movie that just aren't very good:  the sheer lack of big stars make this movie one the biggest collections of “hey, wasn't he in....” you will ever find, which makes the choices of bad guys like Curry, Glover, and Kelly Lynch as Rockwell's partner all the more forgettable.  The disguises in this movie are pretty creative, and they do provide a few chuckles.  But, do these PIs need to use them to accomplish their mission?  The way the girls are always hugging and saying “Hi Charlie!” like little schoolgirls will annoy anyone who considers themselves a man.  And, I want to reiterate again what I have been saying now for a couple of years:  Cameron Diaz is just not hot!  There is a scene in this movie where the girls are getting onto the beach and they are shedding some clothing; when the camera does a close-up of Diaz's chest, I heard at least a few groans from other male members of the audience, who were clearly not impressed with what the director clearly thought was the hottest thing in the movie.  Hmm...scary!  Cameron, eat a donut, for Chrissake!  Hell, eat anything!  You are fading before my eyes!  This movie also falls victim to what “Get Carter” did last month, its shameless over-editing that will make you go blind if you come in with a hangover.  Barrymore, while hot, still looks 14 to me and that does not make a very convincing ass-kicker.

And, once again, the Angels do NOT carry guns!  All of the bad guys do...but, apparently being able to fly through the air and deliver startling roundhouse kicks will suffice!  The Angels not having guns is just silly, and made all the more offensive because the women in the TV show of the 70s did carry weapons.  A surprising choice for a modern action movie.

Is it all bad?  Unfortunately, it is not.  The soundtrack for the movie is pretty good, I have to admit, and it features such a wild combination of songs that in successive scenes, you could get some Crystal Method and Deee-Lite's “Groove Is In the Heart.”  Good choices, indeed!  And, I did laugh once:  Diaz has a love interest (Luke Wilson, “Home Fries”, “Blue Streak”) that takes her to a Soul Train taping in Los Angeles.  One of the producers asks Diaz to dance on-stage, and as the only white girl in the studio, her dance skills are put on full display.  This one scene comes off great...and, the bit where Wilson gets props for being with Diaz by three of the studio's bouncers is the best of the film.

Otherwise, I hate this movie and I hope to never see it again.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09