Let me state out front that I’m not a huge fan of the action genre – but when it’s done well, the entertainment value is jaw-dropping (see John Wick). Having said that, there is a very small sub-genre that features women in the lead role – and these films are an entirely different matter.
Put a compelling, believable actress in the lead role, and what might have been a cliche now becomes something else entirely – perhaps even subversive. Just off the top of my head, this sub-genre might trace its roots back to Russ Meyer’s black-and-white grindhouse masterpiece from 1965, “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! Besides having one of the greatest titles in B-movie history, it features Tura Satana in the lead role – an actress of Japanese/Filipino/Native American/Scots-Irish descent. She already knew karate, aikido, and judo – having learned martial arts from her Japanese father after being raped as a teenager. She’s the leader of a trio of Go-Go dancers that terrorize men. ‘Nuff said.
But for the purposes of today’s post, without question, the modern gold standard for an action movie featuring a female lead is “Atomic Blond,” from 2017, directed by David Leitch and starring the inimmitable Charlize Theron.
Leitch was a stunt-man who co-directed the original “John Wick” in 2014. But his work in this film is nothing short of stunning. None of it, however, would work without Charlize. Her fight sequences are some of the best (and most creative) ever captured on film. I’m including the Chinese and Japanese action films in this statement – yeah, she’s that good. Somehow she makes the unbelievable seem possible.
Theron is obviously one of the most beautiful women in the world, so how she pulls this off is nothing short of magic. Leitch makes an interesting choice in the film not often seen in the genre, made even bolder when the star is gorgeous. After each fight sequence, she remains bruised and cut for the duration of the film. Since the action is pretty much non-stop, she’s really banged up by the end, yet somehow this only adds to her dangerous, sexy mystique.
BTW, she’s bisexual – she fucks whoever she wants. How cool is that? The story isn’t told in a linear fashion – near the beginning; we see her relaxing naked in a bathtub filled with ice water, drinking vodka, her svelte body and face covered in bruises. But there’s no hint of vulnerability – she’s as lethal as a lioness.
For sheer entertainment value, it’s a film I could watch over and over.
I can never get enough of beautiful, dangerous woman.