Weekend Binge: Unlike Tomb Raider, here are 5 underrated (and way better) female-driven action movies
With the release of Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider (and the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones) around women’s day, let’s take a look at some of the better recent action heroines.hollywood Updated: Mar 16, 2018 12:54 IST
Every week, we will curate a collection of titles - movies, TV, general miscellanea - for you to watch (and in some cases, read, or listen to), in a series we call Weekend Binge. The selection will be based on a theme which binds the picks - which could be extremely blunt in certain instances, or confusingly abstract in some. No rules apply, other than the end goal being getting some great entertainment to watch.
While the idea is to base the theme on the week’s major events - it could be the release of a new movie, or show - we could also use this opportunity to comment on our world in general, and turn to art to wrap our heads around some of the more difficult stories of the past seven days.
Action movies with women at their centre aren’t as rare as you’d think. Just last year, we saw Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell,Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde and, regrettably, Milla Jovovich in another in the interminable Resident Evil franchise. A significant chunk of the Oscar contenders was also led by women - films such as Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, and the eventual Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water.
The point being, while the situation is admittedly dire - behind the camera more than in front of it - let’s not miss a chance to celebrate when we can. Of course, a handful of female-fronted movies can never compare with hundreds of films with everyone from Bruce Willis to Nicolas Cage sleepwalking through them.
But over the years, some of the most memorable characters in action films have been women. Ripley, Nikita, Furiosa... The list is long and illustrious. You won’t find another mention of them here, though. With the release of Alicia Vikander’s Tomb Raider (and the second season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones) around women’s day, let’s take a look at some of the better recent action heroines - and the films they’ve appeared in. As always, the point is not to list the best, but perhaps the most underrated.
For two-and-a-half movies, reporter Angela Vidal has battled male egos, creepy old ladies, and the undead. Vidal, played by Manuela Velasco in the chillingly inventive Spanish horror franchise, Rec, started out as an unassuming reporter who gets trapped in an apartment complex that has been quarantined in a zombie outbreak.
Over the course of the sequel - just as good as the first film - and the fourth and final movie of the series - a stylistic departure from the found footage aesthetic of the franchise, Velasco transforms Angela from a nervous reporter into a bone-crunching heroine. It’s an added bonus that the films are also top-notch (provided you ignore the third one).
When it was first announced that MMA star Gina Carano had been cast in Steven Soderbergh’s new film - a spy thriller that also starred Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender and Antonio Banderas - it seemed like a classic case of stunt casting. But while Soderbergh is known to have pulled moves like this before - he cast adult star Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience only two years before Haywire - he never makes random choices. Carano is most definitely not the best actor in the film, especially since she’s surrounded by such an amazing cast, but she’s more than capable as an action star.
It’s unfortunate that the role didn’t translate into a more successful movie career for her. Aside from playing The Rock’s turncoat assistant in Fast Five, she hasn’t really taken it to the next level. But Haywire is a strange little movie that plays to her strengths.
The Long Kiss Goodnight
There aren’t too many filmmakers whose entire careers seem to have been spent basking in cult glory, but Shane Black is certainly one of them. Even a brief pit-stop in blockbuster territory - Marvel’s Iron Man 3 - couldn’t corrupt his schlocky soul. Black has the unique distinction of having been a part of three bonafide cult classics - Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Nice Guys and the one that started it all, The Long Kiss Goodnight. It arrived at a time when stars like Bruce Willlis and Jean Claude Van Damme were ruling the roost, and to spend $65 million on a Geena Davis vehicle sounds had to have been risky. But the result is one of the most beloved cult classics from the ‘90s, often mentioned in the same breath as Heathers, The Big Lebowski and True Romance.
Before (and after) his more recognisable career as a director of Oscar-worthy dramas, Joe Wright went and made a weird little movie about a teenage assassin. It starred Saoirse Ronan in the lead role, one that didn’t have her speak all that much, but was an excellent reminder of her immense potential. She plays Hanna in the film, about a young girl with a unique set of skills even Liam Neeson would cower in front of. Since the age of 2, Hanna’s father, an ex-CIA officer played by Eric Bana, has taught her the art of being an assassin for the sole purpose that when the time comes, she’d be able to kill the woman pursuing him. Add a bunch of fairytale elements and Wright’s trademark visual style, you get Hanna.
Forget everything you’ve heard about the Korean movie industry. Forget all the promises you’ve been made that those movies will change how you look at dark, depraved genre filmmaking. Forget all the buzz you might have heard about this one. But if you need one reason to watch The Villainess, know that it contains one of the most breathtakingly choreographed action sequences of the last decade.