2014 in Action Heroine Films

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The IMDb lists over seven thousand films with a production date of 2014. Which ones look most likely to be of interest to girls with guns fans?

Raze (January 10)

We’ve been drooling not-so quietly over this one for quite some time – more than two years, in fact, since the first promo came out in November 2011, then through the trailer in March this year. And why? Because of the presence of Zoë Bell, who may finally get the chance to kick ass here, after being shamefully wasted in Django Unchained. The story concerns women abducted and forced to battle each other in an underground fight club, with their families being threatened as motivation. Bell was also one of the producers, so if this isn’t the hard-hitting actioner it needs to be, she can take herself outside for a stern talking-to. This will be a “limited” release, so keep your fingers crossed it’s somewhere near you, though I believe it’s also coming out through on-demand services.

Divergent (May 21)

Based on a popular series of young adult books by Veronica Roth, which has been compared to The Hunger Games, both being trilogies set in a dystopian future, with a young heroine. Certainly, the trailer (above) has a similar vibe, and contains enough action to establish its credentials here – it also gets a bonus point for including Maggie Q in a supporting role. So confident are the studio of this film’s success, that they are already working on versions of the other two books for March 2015 and 2016, so this series could become a staple of these previews. The writer of Jane Got a Gun (about which, more in a moment), Brian Duffield, has been hired for the second installment.

Maleficent (May 30)

Angelina Jolie is the nearest thing we have to a legitimate GWG superstar, and is perhaps the only actress who can open an action film on her name alone, as she did in Salt. This is, obviously, somewhat different, being more or less a re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, from the point of view of villainess Maleficent, who wasn’t always an evil witch. Per the synopsis, “When an invading army threatens the harmony of the land. Maleficent rises to be the land’s fiercest protector, but she ultimately suffers a ruthless betrayal – an act that begins to turn her pure heart to stone. Bent on revenge, Maleficent faces an epic battle with the invading king’s successor.” So, in other words, it’s Jolie being her usual BAMF self. Only, in this case, the last two letters stand for “magical female.”

Lucy (August 8)

Few directors have been more committed to the cause of action heroines than Luc Besson, going all the way back to Nikita, an icon of the genre, and just the first of a number of times he has gone to our well. This SF pic looks set to be another example. When Scarlet Johansson was cast as the lead in April, the Hollywood Reporter said the plot “centers on a woman forced to become a drug mule. But the drug instead goes into her system, transforming her into an ass-kicking machine. She can absorb knowledge instantaneously, is able to move objects with her mind and can’t feel pain and other discomforts.” Johansson, of course, was also the nearest thing The Avengers could give us to an action heroine, in her role as Black Widow, which could prove to be a nice warm-up. Heard very little else about this to date, so looking forward to a trailer soon – or even a poster.

janeJane Got a Gun (August 29)

This achieved early notoriety, when original director Lynne Ramsay failed to show up for the first day of shooting, and ended up parting company with the production, taking the cinematographer and Jude Law, who had been scheduled to play the leader of the gang, with her. A lawsuit has followed, alleging the director was drunk and waved a gun around on set – claims Ramsay has denied (maybe she was just channeling the spirit of Werner Herzog?). A new director has been found, but will the film survive? Oh, yeah: the plot. Jane Hammond is a married to one of the worst baddies in town. When her husband turns against his own gang, and returns home barely alive with eight bullets in his back, Jane decides to grab a gun and take matters into her own hands.

Resident Evil 6 (September 12)

The series just won’t quit, and it’s the overseas market you can thank. While the latest installment, Retribution, barely scraped past the original’s US gross, despite a decade of ticket inflation, it took more than three times as much as the first outside of North America, 82.4% of its total box-office coming from foreign parts. As yet, information on the sixth is scant, to the point that it doesn’t even have an official subtitle (“Rebirth” has been reported), but it seems to be the last one – at least for Milla and director/husband Paul W.S. Anderson, though a subsequent reboot would not surprise me. Anderson said, “In terms of returning characters and themes, I do see [it] coming full circle, and circling back to the original characters and themes that were featured in the very first film,” and also returning to the hive where it all began too.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (November 21)

Say what you like, the series is easily the biggest action-heroine box-office hit of all time: Catching Fire is still in theaters, but is already past $750 million worldwide, and may end up surpassing the original. It’s also critically preferred, at 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to 84% for the first part. So could we be looking here at the first ever billion-dollar action heroine movie? It’s not impossible, though more likely to be Mockingjay 2, if it follows the Harry Potter pattern, where the final movie enjoyed almost a 50% boost in receipts. Something similar would get into the top 10 all-time (currently #10 is Pirates of the Caribbean 2, at $1,066 million). Quite a remarkable feat, and a complete destruction of the argument that heroines can’t drive an action franchise.

Barely Lethal (TBA)

barely lethal“A 16-year-old international assassin yearning for a “normal” adolescence fakes her own death and enrolls as a senior in a suburban high school. She quickly learns that being popular can be more painful than getting water-boarded.” I’m not sure who came up with that synopsis, but they likely deserve some first-hand experience of waterboarding. Cute title, even if it does feel rather too close to the lacklustre school plot from Kick-Ass 2. Chris will probably be up for this, since she thoroughly enjoyed director Kyle Newman’s Fanboys. Hailee Steinfeld plays the hit-teenager, Megan, and Jessica Alba is former employer Victoria Knox, who smells a rat and heads in pursuit. Samuel L. Jackson and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones) are also involved.

Crouching Dragon Hidden Tiger II — The Green Destiny (TBA)

Not a film I ever expected to see sequelized, but it was officially announced in May that filming would start next March. It’s based on another book in the same series on which the original was based, and will have Michelle Yeoh returning – if not under the direction of Ang Lee, I think Yuen Wo-Ping will do. Donnie Yen will also star, with Zhang Yi Yi reported in August as being “in talks” to appear in flashbacks. Given the brilliance of its predecessor, it’s got big shoes to fill, but still… Yeoh and Yen, with Yuen directing? We’ll be there. Some sources list this as 2015, but IMDb currently says next year, so we’ll include it here – while reserving the right to copy/paste this paragraph into next year’s preview!

Kite (TBA)

Based on the anime of the same name, the official synopsis says this “Kite is a character-driven action film that charts the story of Sawa (India Eisley), a young woman living in a failed state after the financial collapse, where a corrupt security force profits on the trafficking of young women. When Sawa’s policeman father is killed, she vows to track the murderer down with the help of his ex-partner, Karl Aker (Samuel L. Jackson).” Hmm. Seems to skip a couple of what would seem fairly pertinent details from the anime – but if you’ve ever seen the uncut version, you’ll know why it wouldn’t be directly filmable. Co-star Callan McAuliffe said, “It’s been toned down a tiny bit, but it is still exceedingly violent and there is a lot of the original material in there. It’s definitely not something that young children should watch.”  Original director David R. Ellis died, but shooting completed in September under replacement Ralph Ziman.

kiteHonorable mentions:

  • Veronica Mars (March 14) – The TV series about a young detective, played by Kristen Bell, was turned into a movie after a record-shattering Kickstarter project which hit its $2 million goal in eleven hours. I’ve never actually watched the show, but still – that’s kinda impressive. Am kinda intrigued now, given critical reaction such as “Alias in its attitude, Raymond Chandler in its writing and The O.C. in its class-consciousness.” Unfortunately, it’s not on Netflix, so it’ll have to wait!
  • Jupiter Ascending (18 July) – “In a universe where humans are near the bottom of the evolutionary ladder, a young destitute human woman is targeted for assassination by the Queen of the Universe because her very existence threatens to end the Queen’s reign.” It’s by the Wachowski brot… er, siblings. Once upon a time, that would have been all you’d have needed to say to get us into a frenzy, but that was before… Well, just about everything they’ve done, to varying degrees, since the original Matrix. So, we’ll restrain our enthusiasm on this one for a bit.
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22) – We re-watched the original a little while ago, and it has stood the test of time very well, remaining one of the best graphic novel to film adaptations. The most obvious section of interest was The Big Fat Kill, which saw Clive Owen team up with the ferocious and protective hookers of Old Town, including Rosario Dawson and Devon Aoki. Dawson returns for this sequel, but Aoki is too busy being pregnant, so the role of “little Miho” is being played by Jamie Chung, whom you’ll know as Amber from Sucker Punch.
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