Last week, Scarlett Johansson let loose in Lucy , an actual industry oddity: here is an action film led by a woman who requires absolutely no help from a man and has no love interest whatsoever. Shouldn't be a big deal, but it sort of is. More importantly, the movie did big business over the weekend, which, following The Hunger Games and Divergent, means that audiences want this. The age of only men exchanging fisticuffs and getting into car crashes is over.
We decided to look through Hollywood and see who else needed a badass action vehicle. Age wasn't a concern: if CGI and editing can make a bunch of seventy year olds jump through fireballs in The Expendables then why can't older women pull of feats of ridiculous strength too? (Also: see Red) We tried to limit this to actresses who haven't gotten that big, physically-intensive starring role. If Lucy is a major hit this weekend, however, it should bring them all pretty close to these opportunities.
Action Bonafides: The Chronicles Of Narnia, Constantine, Snowpiercer
Why She'd Be Great: Tilda Swinton is a thin, older woman, and yet who would dare pick a fight with her? As the Narnia movies showed, Swinton is TERRIFYING. But she's also shown the ability and desire to be heroic. Perhaps you've seen her underloved turn in Julia, a movie where she plays a harried alcoholic who ends up in a fateful trip across the border. Her character does nothing but make the wrong choices, but it's her conviction that makes you root for her. We'd love to see that in an action film where she's on the run until finally turning the tables on her pursuers.
Action Bonafides: Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, Hancock, Snow White And The Huntsman, Aeon Flux, The Italian Job, Reindeer Games.
Why She'd Be Great: Charlize Theron is tougher than you, prettier than you and funnier than you. Who doesn't want to be with Charlize Theron, and who doesn't want to BE Charlize Theron? How hard is it to imagine her parachuting into an open hotel room window a la James Bond and wasting some fools? How perfect would it be to see Theron punch some dude off a building, then unleash an awesome one-liner? We all want this! Make it happen, Hollywood.
Action Bonafides: Machete, Avatar, The Fast And The Furious, SWAT, Resident Evil, Battle Los Angeles, Bloodrayne.
Why She'd Be Great: Among actresses, who has more experience than Rodriguez in kicking ass onscreen? And yet, Rodriguez is always the sidekick, even though her hard-edged sexuality and street cred often allows her to dwarf her lionized co-stars: did anyone really want to watch Colin Farrell learn the trade in SWAT when you had Rodriguez over there, wasting just as many fools, and drinking him under the table?
Action Bonafides: Face/Off, The Bourne Supremacy, Death Race.
Why She'd Be Great: Allen is 57, and she doesn't seem all that interested in action films. But Paul W.S. Anderson, to his credit, saw something we all didn't when he cast her as the villain in Death Race: Allen's steely resolve is overwhelmingly intimidating. The line, "Fuck with me and we'll see who shits on the sidewalk" makes ZERO sense, but somehow Allen sold it like, "I'll take you to the bank... the blood bank!" The Contender was not an action movie, but seeing Allen's back against the wall was something of a thrill, particularly in how unbreakable she was. Put her behind the wheel in a Fast And Furious sequel and watch Vin Diesel crap his pants.
Action Bonafides: Domino, Shadowboxer, Baby Boy.
Why She'd Be Great: They don't just give out Oscars for nothing – Mo'Nique in Precious is an absolute terror. When you look into her eyes, when you see her break down at the end, you see a horrifying truth: this is a complex, troubled woman who made bad decisions, and this is also an evil woman. That sort of complexity is being wasted by the industry right now, when in fact Mo'Nique should be playing lead roles. If she were a new partner in The Heat 2, Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock would cower at her intensity, and it would play out as more of an actual action picture than the silly comedy of part one. Better yet, James Bond has been battling the same suited fancypants madman for awhile – what would he do with Mo'Nique?
Action Bonafides: Erased, The November Man, Quantum Of Solace, Centurion, Max Payne, Hitman, Oblivion
Why She'd Be Great: Look at that resume! Has Kurylenko really been kicking that much ass for so long as we didn't even realize it? Of course, those movies have a common thread: Kurylenko keeps taking a backseat to a leading man, and often finds herself being rescued from danger. At this point, she could probably rescue herself, no? This has become sort of the Olga Kurylenko Role, basically, the Girl Who Is Sort Of Tough And Foreign But Also Needs To Be Saved. But anyone who saw her silent predator role in Centurion knows that you absolutely do not mess with Kurylenko. Maybe the opportunity to do this on film has passed, but there's no reason you can't give Kurylenko a badass cable series to lead.
Action Bonafides: Face/Off, Demonlover, Bound, Out For Justice.
Why She'd Be Great: Gershon is an industry vet who has been high and low, who has breathed fire in major studio movies and served as "the girlfriend" in the smallest movie. She's paid her dues, and came on top of it all as a fierce, powerful woman. Since everyone gets a Taken at some point, why not her? We love Gershon because she seems absolutely mean in every way. If you cross her, it's easy to imagine you'll end up seriously damaged, one way or another. How have we as a society failed to put a gun in Gina Gershon's hand enough times?
Action Bonafides: X-Men, Goldeneye, Deep Rising, Don't Say A Word, Taken, Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Why She'd Be Great: Ideal premise for Taken 3: Liam Neeson has been tooken, and the only person who can un-tooken him is his estranged wife, Famke Janssen. Spending time around Bryan Mills has taught her more than a few skills, and she's going to use all of them to take back what's hers. Janssen's biggest role is in the X-Men franchise, who have been repeatedly using her as a prop. She deserves better, and now that she's aged up, you'd like to see her experience and knowledge take center stage as well as her physicality. Would you mess with Xenia Onatopp?
Action Bonafides: Beowulf, Unbreakable.
Why She'd Be Great: In this week's A Most Wanted Man, an espionage drama about the cracks found in international terrorist investigations, Wright walks in with her famously long blond locks completely shorn, her hair matted to her head like a warrior's helmet. For the next two hours, she goes toe-to-toe with a fiercely intimidating Philip Seymour Hoffman, and the two, initially at odds, develop a reasonable working relationship. Wright is a furious force of nature in this film, and when she walks off with her scenes, the weak-willed Jenny of Forrest Gump is long forgotten. Get this woman a spinoff.
Action Bonafides: Sin City, Trance, Unstoppable, Raze, Death Proof.
Why She'd Be Great: Dawson has tried and tried again to become one of the top actresses in the business, but her career decisions always feel an unfortunate step too short, or too soon. Which is frustrating since she's clearly got both the presence and the looks to be the premiere tough chick of cinema. A couple of years back, she tried developing her own comic, Gemini Division, to serve as a future starring role. This gamble hasn't paid off, and instead Dawson has had to suffer the indignities of falling for Kevin James in Zookeeper and doing second banana voicework in the straight-to-DVD Wonder Woman. Dawson deserves her chance, and she deserves it now.
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