Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
Sinfully good or Holy shit? An explosion-overload unfortunately renders this sequel closer to the latter.
It's as well director McG has been dabbling in television since 2000's Charlie's Angels, because he doesn't seem to have spent much time on this, the eagerly awaited sequel. In fact, so blatant is his disregard for preparation that he's practically lifted the first film wholesale, added even more explosions and silly stunts and repackaged it with a new title sequence before shoving it hurriedly into your local multiplex. It's as if he'd completely forgotten he had a film to make at all before desperately copying someone else's homework at the last minute. Problem is it's his own. Yup, you guessed it; I'm mightily disappointed by this movie.
That is not to say Full Throttle hasn't got anything to recommend it. The original cast all return with the exception of Bill Murray as Bosley. Here he's replaced by Bernie Mac (the difference in creed is rather convolutedly brushed over, but hats off to them for trying anyway) who gets just about all of the good lines, and When you consider most of his stuff is improvised you should get some idea of how competent the script is. Diaz, Liu and Barrymore are just as delectable as they were first time round, and even Crispin Glover gets a second look in as the Thin Man (don't ask how he survived the first movie's climax; it's conveniently never explained). Likewise the other major star of the first movie, ie. Mr. Big Explosion gets a major increase in screen time, although he is still rather unfairly absent from the cast list. He really ought to get an equity card...
Somewhat surprisingly, a number of stars who will now be bemoaning the benefits of hindsight choose to cameo. Most interesting of all is my Main Man Mr. Bruce Willis, his two minutes of screen time even more surprising considering the presence of his ex, Ms Demi Moore. Carrie Fisher appears as a nun, apparently now typecast after her short stint in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and the innocent-but-now-legal Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen even pop up in a daydream sequence suggesting possible Angel replacements. The dirty wee...ahem, where was I? Ah yes.
Robert Forster, Eric Bogosian, dirt-bikers Jeremy MCgrath and Ricky Carmichael, Pink and best of all ex-Angels TV series star Jaclyn Smith all pop up at various intervals, and star-spotting soon becomes the most interesting part of the movie. Chuck in the aforementioned Moore, who rather incidentally is looking the business these days, as evil 'Fallen Angel' Madison Lee and a typically deranged Justin Theroux (more of him later) as an old flame of Barrymore recently out of prison and looking for justice and it's hard to see where McG could have gone wrong.
Unfortunately, go wrong he has, and he's done it in quite spectacular style. A word on plotting. The original film; Angels hired to recover pointless bit of technology, clients are the bad guys, Barrymore is in love with one of them. The sequel; Angels hired to recover pointless bit of technology, client is one of the bad guys, Barrymore used to be in love with another one. Both films; everything blows up, bad guys get arses kicked during silly stunt-filled fights, Bosley gets all the good lines, Angels flash much cleavage throughout. Trouble is it worked the first time but not the second. How so?
If Charlie's Angels had one massively saving grace it's that it had the airiest, most fun atmosphere of any action film in recent memory, and the stunts, whilst silly, were not so over the top they consistently made the audience laugh. Here, however, in turning everything up to 11 McG has forgotten to apply the brakes and been sent aquaplaning out of control by the mucky puddle of his own inflated wet ego. It may sound harsh but it's true. Almost everything in this movie is so stupidly overblown that the very notion of suspension of disbelief vaporises amidst the first explosion. Witness in particular the ridiculous "Coal Bowl" dirt-biking sequence; a guy on a bike jumps off a small hill, flips upside down, lets go of his bike, shoots several tens of rounds from automatics held in both hands, somehow flips back up the right way and around to face back forwards, re-mounts his bike and lands perfectly on the downside of the same hill. Oh dear.
Arguably the first movie featured a number of impossible stunts, but we were willing to forgive simply because it was so much damn fun. Here however McG is just taking the piss. It doesn't look cool, and I'm not buying it. Full Throttle fails to be fun because it's so packed to the rafters with these ridiculous moments that the audience is left choking on the fumes of a thousand retina-searing fireballs. At this point special mention must be made to McG's envelope-pushing "exploding air" demise met by the uber-baddy. Apparently cars just ain't enough these days and inert chemical mixtures such as that we breathe are required to combust every now and then. Running at about 100 minutes, this is one film you almost wish was an extra 20 or 30 minutes long purely to give your eyes a break and maybe flesh out the characters a little. "A little less action, a little more conversation please" might be the opposite of what Elvis preached but here it would have been a godsend. As I mentioned before, Bernie Mac is easily the best thing about this movie and he's given such a criminally small amount of screen time that you really have to wonder where McG's head was at. Presumably he was too busy jerking off to explosions to actually watch his own film.
Another thorny area for this reviewer was the silly number of perv-at-the-ladies moments. I'm not for one second suggesting that these fine females are silly enough to allow themselves to be exploited, but the naughty nature of the first movie is here ramped up along with the action to such a degree that it begins to border on the perverse. Yes, Cameron Diaz has a lovely figure, no I don't need to see her thinly-veiled crotch every two minutes. Yes Demi Moore has been looking after herself, no I don't need a Baywatch style run-up-the-beach-with-her-tits-bouncing shot to establish this. Yes Drew Barrymore has the biggest tits out of the three girls, no they do not need to be pushed up into her cheek bones for me to acknowledge it. I'm all for female empowerment, but I worry that the dirty macs are getting too much of a treat here.
You will notice I haven't yet given any specifics of the plot away. This is because it is entirely irrelevant. It could fit on the back of a postage stamp yet it has been stretched to the best part of two hours, and this should give you some idea of how much McG cares about such trivialities as Why Is Everything Blowing Up?. Similarly I have no intention of elaborating on it either. I will instead, as promised, elaborate on Justin Theroux, a man for whom I was gaining some respect given his outstanding performance in Mulholland Drive and a silly but fun appearance in Zoolander as the evil DJ. Here he is tasked not just with being a Nasty Man with which he can cope, but more specifically a Nasty Irish Man, with which he cannot. For an explanation, consider that I actually meant to type "Nasty Oirish Man" and you should get the picture. Thought Brad Pitt struggled with the accent in Devil's Own? You ain't heard nothin' yet. In a performance that makes the entire cast of Blown Away sound like they spent years rehearsing the lingo, Theroux goes up in the biggest flame of the movie; his linguistic prowess igniting the kind of dialect armageddon our friends inhabiting the Emerald Isle must surely want to meet with equal and opposite force. This is Pantomime Accent 101 with knobs on, and now that I think of it Bernie Mac isn't the most funny man in the film, merely the most intentionally funny. You have been warned.
With hindsight, the ridiculous trailer featuring the film's opening stunt should have been ringing a damn sight more alarm bells than it obviously was, since I actually went in expecting the best. It was a minor miracle the first film worked so well, and in reality not much of a shock that another installment hasn't. McG had better reassess his ideas of what makes a film enjoyable before his next outing, whatever that may be, because big explosions and heaving tits it ain't. All the ingredients are present in Full Throttle, it's just that nobody knew when to stop pouring them in and stir the mixture a little instead. Some vague concession to character development is made in Diaz and Luke Wilson's new home and Theroux's link to Barrymore's past, but other than that this offers no progress whatsoever over the first movie. With the likes of X2 setting a new benchmark in what we can expect an action sequel to offer it's characters, directors like McG are going to have to wake up and smell the coffee instead of dreaming of a return to the 80's where guns, bombs and naked birds were all that counted. That was then and this is now, and unfortunately Full Throttle is soooo last millennium. I'm going to go and watch the cars outside blow up for no good reason. That's what cars do, right?
Craig Disko has awarded this film 2 out of 5 Horny Disko Mojos.
Lucy Liu (Alex)
Drew Barrymore (Dylan)
Bernie Mac (Bosley)
Demi Moore (Madison Lee)
Justin Theroux (Seamus O'Grady)