Girls fight

GUNS ARE FOR the bad guys. Charlie's new-school angels don't use firearms; instead, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu make like hip Hong Kong action heroes Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Defying gravity, they leap through the air, karate-chopping and smacking their enemies with stiletto heels.


directed by McG with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Bill Murray opens November 3 at Meridian, Oak Tree, other theaters

It's kung-fu Cosmo style—not that that's a bad thing. (After all, James Bond never sacrificed his dapper GQ look while jumping out of airplanes.) The enjoyably comical, adrenaline-packed Angels has it both ways at the box office, simultaneously presenting its stars as full-fledged action heroines and titillating eye candy.

Despite summertime rumors of a problematic script and conflicts between cast members, the updated Charlie's Angels proves to be a smooth repackaging of the '70s television series. The script makes several references to its source (one of the women drives a striped Mustang), but not so many that it loses viewers who don't remember or care for the original 1976-81 show.

Here, the angels' latest assignment is to rescue a software geek (The Green Mile's Sam Rockwell) whose high-tech voice-tracking device can instantly locate anyone in the world, including the never-seen Charlie. Bill Murray is appropriately goofy as Bosley, while Crispin Glover is suitably eerie as a silent villain. Mainly, however, the plot serves as a pretext for impressive physical stunts and fiery explosions. Hong Kong martial arts specialist Cheung-Yan Yuen has taught the actresses to fight, not just play-fight like Farrah did.

Despite all their hard-fisted know-how, girls will be girls. All three heroines gush over cute guys and fall in love. True to its TV heritage, the movie banks on the trio's physical assets. Diaz dances in her Underoos; Liu reprises her bitchy Ally McBeal role in a leather dress; and Barrymore jiggles her breasts to distract evil men. Some will call this exploitation, but these angels knowingly deploy their beauty like a lethal weapon. Here's my cleavage; hear me roar.

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