By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

In our modern age of entertainment where audiences demand more substance and less objectification of female characters, it might seem like a tricky feat to pull of leading women that are smart, badass and sexy. However, a female filmmaker can almost certainly know how to achieve this balancing act. Enter actress and filmmaker Elizabeth Banks. Banks, who has already shown some great skills with her Pitch Perfect trilogy, has agreed to tackle an entry in an entertainment franchise that has previously come across as the antithesis of this new progression.

Through her 2019 edition of Charlie’s Angels, Elizabeth Banks has achieved this nearly perfect balance with a movie that is fun and thrilling with a hearty dose of female empowerment. Though the movie does shamelessly tread upon familiar espionage territory, it still strikes a major step forward for progressive female characters in a franchise that previously donned this guise for gratuitous sexuality.

Kristen Stewart stars as Sabina, an American member of the international Townshend Agency, a private security and investigative organization which has served the world for several generations. Managed by the “Bosleys,” the “Angels” consist of high trained and skilled agents fighting for justice in an unjust world. When a skilled computer engineer named Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) uncovers a nefarious plot within her tech company, she must flee for her life while attempting to reveal the truth to the proper authorities. Sabina, new partner Jane Kano (Ella Balinska) and leader Rebekah Bosley (Banks) intervene to protect Elena and save the world from impending doom.

Based on a story by writers Evio Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn, screenwriter/director Banks offers audiences a more acceptable and even admirable version of Charlie’s Angels for modern generations. The story and espionage beats are obviously derivative with little originality, but at least Banks and her co-writers have finally treated their female leads with more respect and still manage to make thrm sexy without being gratuitous. Banks and her crew also tremendous skill with some truly impressive and dazzling fight and action sequences. It is definitely rip-roaring thrill ride from start to finish.

The cast members also deserve much credit for delivering performances with much conviction, aplomb, and with superb comic timing. In the past, Kristen Stewart has been criticized for some dull, wooden performances in the Twilight franchise. However, since then, she has proven herself as a talented actress with multiple acclaimed roles.

In Charlie’s Angels, Stewart takes on the role of rebellious Angel Sabina, and does so with a badass attitude and great comic timing. Actress Ella Balinska also gives a great performance as Jane Kano, a former British agent-turned-Angel who tremendously skilled, but a little too serious for her own good. Naomi Scott gives a delightful turn as the intelligent, but awkward Elena Houghlin, a good-hearted techie who must courageously take on the bad guys with the help of the Angels. In addition the venerable Patrick Stewart gives a fun and enjoyable turn as John Bosley, as does Elizabeth Banks as his former protege Rebekah Bosley.

So, Banks actually pulls triple duty as writer, director and actress of this highly enjoyable and somewhat respectable entry in the Charlie’s Angels franchise. Though previous iterations have been mostly geared towards men, this 2019 version has something for everyone without ever stepping on anyone’s toes. I sincerely hope this movie does well because I would love to enjoy further installments. As long as filmmakers continue to treat female characters more respectfully, fun popcorn cinema such as this can have a bright future.

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