The future of action movies is female!
From director Luc Besson’s beautiful but deadly heroines, to lethal MI6 agents, assassins and gun-fu experts, these women kick butt.
The role and representation of women in film have grown in recent decades, from playing background roles such as sidekicks or men’s motivations to leading parts typically reserved for men.
This shift is more evident in the action genre, known for its muscular male protagonists in the 90s and early 2000s – think Wesley Snipes in the Blade Trilogy and Matt Damon in The Bourne Identity. Films like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, a revenge thriller about a scorned woman, achieved critical and commercial success and flipped the narrative. More women-led action films followed Kill Bill and found success. Showmax has a plethora of these films, check them out.
French director and screenwriter Luc Besson got popular in the 90s for his stylish action films, especially La Femme Nikita, which follows a junkie who morphs into a deadly assassin but struggles to balance that with her personal life and seeks out.
Anna is his latest action thriller to follow the rejected stone trope. It follows the eponymous Anna, a Russian beauty seeking escape from an abusive relationship. She finds it in the KGB, where she is trained into a formidable assassin under the tutelage of the crafty Olga, but this later becomes another relationship she wants to escape. Anna is as visceral as it gets for an action film, and model-turned-actor Sasha Luss shines in the titular role.
Atomic Blonde pays homage to classic spy thrillers with its plot twists, non-stop action and impressive fight scenes. It also confirms South African actress Charlize Theron can do anything! Theron, an Oscar winner, dazzles and breaks a few bones as Lorraine Broughton, a lethal MI6 agent sent to Berlin to recover an asset in possession of a list of double agents operating in the city during the Cold War. She must utilise all her skills to navigate the cold streets of Berlin littered with double and triple agents who also want the list.
Directed by David Leitch, who made John Wick, Atomic Blonde gives all the joys of a spy thriller and some of that gun-fu from the John Wick film! The role demanded a lot from Theron, who prepped with “eight amazing trainers that basically made me puke every single day” and cracked two teeth.
Ava is an elite assassin struggling with alcohol addiction. However, her struggles go beyond alcohol; like most assassins in these sorts of films, she’s tired of the job but can’t leave. She breaks protocols and interviews her targets just before she kills them to feel justified, a worrying problem for her superiors who think she’s getting soft and losing concentration. So, they set her up, forcing her to fight back.
Margot Robbie’s Hailey Quinn captures the shift in women’s role in action films. Harley Quinn is often a supporting character in Joker or Batman films, but here she’s free from the shackles of Batman’s nemesis and gloriously goes on a vengeful rampage as the star of the story.
The film picks from the final pieces of the Suicide Squad where the Joker breaks up with Quinn, leaving her exposed to enemies she made while with him. But Quinn is no slouch and all of Gotham quickly finds out. The film was praised as a colourful ride that introduces a character relegated to the background for so long – and Margot Robbie’s terrific performance.