Can they act? Don't ask. They don’t have to.

likely to he inherited by [.iu. Barrymore and [)iaz. regardless of the quality of the film is testament to the very special fascination exerted by the female law enforcement agent. From Cagney and Lacey to (‘larice Starling. by way of Modesty Blaise. fimma Peel. V.l. Warchowski and Dana Scully. there‘s a frisson about the crime- busting. code-cracking. weapon-trained female that makes even James Bond look positively limp.

Why should this be? In Freudian terms. after all. the female investigator is a castrating woman or. not to put too sharp a stiletto point on it. a hallbreaker. The conventional cinematic mystery woman think Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. Kim Novak in Vertigo. Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct is a cipher awaiting the decoding powers of a male hero who may or may not be man enough for the task. But the female detective does her own investigating. Rather than representing mystery and passively awaiting decryption. she actively penetrates mysteries herself. And quite often. she even has a big gun to do it with. Heady not to say distinctly phallic stuff.

It‘s hardly big news that the movies rarely miss a chance to perpetuate the less than healthy relationship between sex and violence. Nor do you have to be a Russ Meyer buff to realise that aggressive women have a long- established erotic cachet. The fact that

gun-toting rookie cop roles in ()at Of

Sight and The Bone Collector respectively helped Jennifer Lopez and Angelina Jolie to become two of the most prized female sex symbols of their day says something about the enduring appeal of the tooled-up woman. lt‘s notable. in fact. that Charlie's .llngels co-producer Drew Barrymore refused to countenance the

14 THE UST 16—30 Nov 2000

FILM REVIEW Charlie's Angels (15) 90 mins ***

The chief attractions are the outfits and the act‘n sequences

look as if they are modelling for an Ellefashion

shoot.'They rarely mess up their hair and ‘never _. _ break out in a’ sweat. There's nothing believable

Since Farrah Fawcett-esque flicks are back in, it seems a'good time to revive Charlie's Angels. Make no mistake though, the much hyped update is a slick, computer-enhanced state of the art action movie. It's dumb and silly too, but in a knowing post-ironic way which lets it pretend '- it's smart and gives fashionable people an excuse to get excited about it. Probably the movie will look dated very soon, but right now it carries'a certain cache due to our fond memories of the original.

The film boils down to three chief attractions . which are so pleasing on the eye it almost gets" away with everything else. First there is the gorgeous trio of Cameron Diaz. Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. Any questions about whether Liu can act are quickly answered: she doesn't have to. None of them do. These actresses are paid to make us want to watch them, and they do, with a little help from the other tWO chief attractions,

namely the outfits and action sequences. Whether

boogying in the disco or walking away from a high octane kung fu battle, the Angels always

about these three crime fighters. and that is why , i

we girls needn't get excited aboutthis being a rare action film led by women. But the lack of

' realism Is also one of the film's strengths; Its thrills

and spills have a cartoonish, laws-Of-natureg defying.brilliance.'The opening sequence is quite I breathtaking, and there are moments throughout '

.where the” actibn, is fantastic to behold. For their

part. the actresses have got to grips with the high kicks and karate punches and with a bit of help

' from slo-mo effects the fights have rhythm and

grace. . I

On the-other side of theycoin. the plot is pants. the characters are wafer-thin and the jokes aren't half 'as funny as theyought to be. Throw in an attempt to destroy individual privacy as we know it, kidnaps. betraya'ls, disguises, near-fatal moments, Bill Murray's Bosley and the Angels' unerring and frankly sucky love for Charlie (voiced once again by John Forsyth). and there you have it. This is a film to see then. if you want something very light and‘insubstantial, but sleek nevertheless. (Hannah Fries)

The original

Angels occupy pride of place next to Uhura, Xena and Borg

use of guns in her pet project ~ but then. as Lucy Liu already knows from her role as a lithe dominatrix in

Payback. a girl can do plenty of

damage without firepower.

Then there‘s the tiresomer

predictable Ann Summers appeal of

uniforms and handcuffs. You've only

got to think of the opening sequence of

Kathryn Bigelow's film Blue Steel in which Jamie Lee Curtis straps on and polishes up for police duty to see that protect-and-serve paraphernalia is but a chinstrap away from the weekend wardrobe of the fetishist.

So. handcuff all that together. and you've got a wet dream for slavering. development-arrested porn buffs a whiplash fantasy that Charlie's Angels is only too happy to indulge. We can

expect all manner of psychobabble from the actresses concerned about how 'empowering‘ it is to do kung—fu in lipgloss. and how the Angels provide excellent role models for ambitious post-Spice pre-teens. But we shouldn't let this dim the light that still emanates from the true heroines of the sleuth sorority. .\'o overview would be complete without awed tribute to Frances .\lcl)ormand‘s turn in l-areo. Without the aid of martial arts or marital aids. pregnant police chief Marge (itmderson waddled all the way to the truth ~ and though she‘ll never make the cover of Maxim. we'd profit from more like her.

Charlie’s Angels goes on general release from Fri 24 Nov.