Angelina Jolie: The Only Ultimate (Female) Action Hero?


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Anyone who knows me well knows I love me some Angeline Jolie. I adore the Angie. I don’t know the woman personally; we’ve clearly never met.  But I love – LOVE – and respect her choices as an actor, producer, director and writer. As the founder and CEO of an NGO, it’s a no-brainer that I also respect her relentless efforts in the humanitarian world.

With that being said, of course I own pretty much every single film she’s been in like any proper fan would. Okay not Cyborg 2. I just can’t.

I was watching Salt for the umpteenth time recently (which happens to have two other favorite actors in it: Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor).  I always enjoy watching the behind the scenes featurettes; seeing how everything came together, how did they shoot certain scenes, pulled off various stunts, etc. But as much as I love Angelina Jolie, some of the comments made in the Salt featurette titled Angelina Jolie: The Ultimate Action Hero (watch it here) make my jaw drop to the floor. Am I the only person who finds it lame when a male director says:

I don’t think I’ve seen a movie like this where the woman really does kick ass. I’ve seen men do it. But I’ve never seen a woman do the things Angelina does in this movie. 

Angelina combines the skills of a great dramatic actress with an ability to perform action sequences as convincingly, as hard-hittingly, with as much power as any male movie star out there. 

– Philip Noyce, ‘Salt’ Director

Holy crackers with cream cheese. Oh my word. Back the truck up, Mr. Noyce. Back it way up. There are so many things wrong with these statements.  The first: it passively highlights the ridiculous notion that being a man means you should automatically be some kind of dominant warrior ninja or at the very least be ‘tough’ and somewhat alpha. (Honestly, gender roles based on patriarchal stereotypes hurt both men and women alike.) The second: I didn’t realize it was 1952.

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Mr Noyce, director sir, I love your work. I really do.  And because of that, I’m willing to take your statement as innocent ignorance. Instead of telling you to kiss my neon pink Muay Thai gloves, I’m choosing to turn the other cheek.  To save you further embarrassment with your confusion in regards to women and our ability to play tough like the lads, please allow me to kindly offer you a brief anthology of women who kick ass on camera.  These examples clearly demonstrate we have been ass-kickers of all kinds: action heroes, assassins, rogue agents, battered wives, mentally ill stalkers, or flat out just wanting some revenge.  At the crux of these examples is an amazing display of women being fierce in film. These actresses each made bold character choices, committed fully to the moment not only in the objective of the scene, but in the physical action. Some characters “won”, some “lost” in the end. But they all played their part “as convincingly, as hard-hittingly, with as much power as any male movie star out there.” (That line makes me want to barf kittens).  And Ms Jolie says in this same featurette that women don’t fight mean. I respectfully have to disagree. As a student of martial arts – and as a “been there done that” street-wise lady who’s traveled to some of the roughest and toughest places – I would far rather fight a man any day over a woman. Women who are willing to fight are not to be trifled with. They go full out. But that’s another story. Back to our anthology…

Let’s start with Angelina for a point of reference, shall we?

Angelina Jolie, Salt (2010)

Now let’s look at some other kick ass ladies in chronological order (this list is by no means exhaustive. Some videos are NSFW):

Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction (1987)

Linda Hamilton, Terminator 2 (1991), (also check out Terminator, 1984)

Demi Moore, G.I. Jane (1997)

Jennifer Lopez, Out of Sight (1998); (also check out the final scene of Enough, 2002)

Carrie Anne Moss, Matrix (1999)

Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Uma Thurman (Lucy Liu, Vivica A. Fox) Kill Bill Vol 1 (2003), Vol 2 (2004), Vol 3 (in development)

Summer Glau, Serenity (2005)

Aishwarya Rai Bachan, The Last Legion (2007)

Zoe Saldana, Colombiana (2011) *sorry in German

Gina Carano, Haywire (2011)

Vidya Balan, Kahaani (2012)

I’m looking forward to the day where it’s considered so terribly embarrassingly gauche to state that a woman can ‘keep up’ with a man on film (or in anything for that matter. Except urinating while standing. I think the lads will always have a one-up on that one even with the invention of this sucker. I’ve tried it on many mountain tops and 80% of the time I pee down my leg.) Why does one gender need to ‘keep up’ with the other? Why cannot each individual be celebrated for the strengths he or she brings to the table? It will also be outstanding when female action stars aren’t rated by their ‘fuckability’ vs. ‘manliness’. Instead they will be ‘rated’ by their dedication to their craft, to the character and to the physical and mental conditioning required to fulfill the role and how that translates on film.

At the end of the day, an audience wants a good story. Just tell a good story.

PS: Here are some cool videos of ladies in training in case Mr. Noyce and his contemporaries need further proof that we can own our strength as women just fine.

Summer Glau fight training, Serenity

Zoe Saldana fight training, Colombiana