Action Ladies Wanted

Action movies are totally my guilty pleasure. I love just about anything with a bit of kung-fu, explosions, or a good car chase. Give me your Jason Bourne, James Bond, and all the superheros. But really I can’t help but wonder, where are all my ladies at?

There has been a bit of buzz lately about how Iron Man 3 passed the Bechdel test, and how Pepper throws some punches. And ok, if you set the bar at the first Iron Man then yeah, leaps and bounds ahead, but that is a really low bar to clear. Yes, Pepper is written miles better in 3, but she is still a side character in a movie about Tony Stark and all his dude-type friends and villains. And now I am hearing that there is going to be an Ant Man movie, but Black Widow isn’t getting her own film yet? Japes and japery, surely? Ant Man?!?

And yes, we do have Katniss Everdeen kicking some butt in The Hunger Games, with the second movie coming out soon. But really Hunger Games has always struck me as a drama first and foremost that has some action sequences, and my plebeian taste tends to run to the big bombastic action films for pure entertainment. I liked the Hunger Games books, but they aren’t really feeding what I’m hungry for. I keep hearing rumors of an all-female Expendables, but lord only knows when we’ll actually see it.

So the reason this has all been on my mind lately is because some friends and I have started doing a semi-regular girls’ movie night, and I wanted to do a woman centric action night. The rules are fairly simple, somewhat recent movies that at least a few in the group have not seen before, and a lady-type person in a major role that isn’t arm candy or rescue bait. So far I’ve managed to come up with three picks. So I give you my tiny ode to action movies that are moving in the right direction.

Hanna movie poster


Hanna, like Hunger Games, packs a lot of depth into a violent, punchy movie, but unlike Hunger Games, the action elements are pretty ingrained into the film as a whole rather than a climactic element of the third act. Our title heroine is a 15 year old girl out to get revenge for her murdered mother, which her father has been training her for in solitude her whole life. Hanna does something very clever in subverting two very male story tropes, that of the super soldier and the coming of age story, by seamlessly weaving them into a third highly feminine trope of the fairy tale. And Hanna is a fairy tale. The young girl has to come out of the woods to defeat the wicked witch. Along the way she meets friends, experiences wondrous new things, discover hidden depths within herself, and even has to fend off a fledgling suitor. All in all, it’s an absolute sweetheart of a film, that happens to also be suspenseful action film.

Dredd movie posterDredd

OK, so this movie does have a male lead, and the lady sidekick didn’t even make it on to the poster, but I assure you she is awesome enough to warrant special consideration. Judge Anderson is a rookie Judge up for field examination. While she differs to Dredd as a superior, in many ways it is her choices and her reactions that drive the plot, while Dredd himself is more of a force of nature than a character who grows and develops during the film. And not in some awful look at the rookie mistake that the old dude has to clean up way either. She *SPOILERS* gets kidnaped at one point, and rather than it be a plot-line for Dredd, it’s handled the way a male character getting kidnapped would be. She cleverly manages to escape, showing off her own strengths and talents. The few scenes in which she is sexualized make sense within the context of the plot, and didn’t feel gratuitous to me. Basically, she is cool, and not a big pile of problematic tropes. Heads up, though, this movie has some serious gross out moments of gore.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec movie poster

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

This movie is a sort of French lady version of Indiana Jones, but with a slightly more mystic bent. Adèle runs around digging up mummies, chasing a revived pterodactyl around Paris, and trying to save her sister from a catatonic state induced by a freak tennis accident. She’s charming, clever, and did I mention she’s a writer? This movie is all sorts of fun. Also of interest, the fashions of this movie (set a few years before Downton Abbey) are all kinds of gorgeous. This one is considerably more light hearted than the other two, if you don’t want something that is all Dark Dark McDarkersons. I think it’s also going to be the first in a trilogy. So yay! (And it’s based on a comic series if you want to chase that down).

So what about you, dear readers? Have any films that give you hope that this testosterone-drenched genre might be looking to improve its lady relations?

By Opifex

Opifex is a former art student, unrepentant nerd, and occasional annoying liker of things before they were cool. She keeps two sets of polyhedral dice in her purse, in case the first set stops being lucky. That's kind of how she rolls.

17 replies on “Action Ladies Wanted”

Hanna is such a brilliant movie. I saw it twice in the theater and have a DVD copy of it.

Oh I would love a Black Widow movie so much. But that’s basically what we are getting with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Much like Dredd, Widow will be on par with Cap in screen time from everything that I can gather.

Putting on my nerd rage hat to defend the Ant-Man movie, come on its directed by Edgar Wright!!!

Sadly no. I bought a disc of it in Canada, and it’s available to preorder in disc form on the US Amazon ( totally ships to the US though if anyone State-side wants it sooner). Also a uh, web search for a streaming site for this movie might turn something up. Or something. *cough*

There’s “Tank Girl” for sure–it’s more wacky than some action movies but it definitely has its moments and it’s all about a couple of badass ladies. Since you mentioned a Luc Besson movie already, have you seen “The Fifth Element?” Lee-loo definitely has the best fight scenes in that one.

Well, there’s always Xena. :)

If you like Bollywood, Dhoom 2 has a pretty sweet female character who gets to have a big part of the action, though she’s still a bit sidelined to the dudes. (Dhoom and Dhoom 2 are the Bollywood version[s] of The Fast and the Furious.)

I love Xena, but I was mostly looking to full length pictures when I was drafting this up. And Dhoom sounds fun. I’m a little embarrassed by how much I enjoy Fast and the Furious (although I always cringe whenever they wreck a really nice car), so I’ll have to check it out.

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