Welcome back to the Kick-Ass Female Film Characters series after what felt like a long break. It takes all sorts as a woman to kick some ass. Joining forces with other like-minded avenger-types. or if you’re evil-minded, and get a second chance to kill your enemy – be it with a sword or a snake. Evading assassination, and then literally kicking the shit out of your pursuers. You can tame a licensed killer, and make a great sacrifice. As a teenager, defying your mother’s misled influence. Or as a tough child, protecting your father in the midst of nowhere. The following film characters rock the world of cinema, all in their own unique, brilliant way.
Wilma Dean Loomis – – – Splendor in the Grass (1961)
The depiction of the turbulent journey of a teenage girl was executed rather differently back in the 1960s given the change in times – but Elia Kazan’s emotionally-taut romance proves that as sex and love in adolescence go, not much has changed at all. Deanie (be still my beating heart, Natalie Wood) is struggling to allocate such desires and depression during her own personal venture to adulthood.
Conflicting with her meddling mother’s advice offering a frosty, archaic template of how to be a correct woman, Deanie is a firecracker, both at her most lustful and melancholy, blending through the passionate and the desolate. The ultra-charged bathtub scene is unforgettable, one of Wood’s absolute finest acting moments. The vulnerable, wonderful Deanie’s own female hysteria, physical and mental longings, and of course Wordsworth, somehow just about balance her on the very rocky road of sanity. – – – Robin Write
Lysistrata – – – Chi-Raq (2015)
It’s really a shame that Spike Lee’s rhyming Greek play referencing protest film Chi-Raq hasn’t garnered more hype. For all it’s messiness and unfocused moments, it has a real rushing of blood through it’s veins, more so that one of Lee’s movies has had for years, this is perfectly personified by Teyonah Parris’ swaggering monolithic performance as Lysistrata.
It’s a unique type of powerful female character who is played both in broad and detailed strokes, whilst she has the character and depth of a normal character, there is so much about here that is as large as life and heroic in a traditional sense, not as one who takes heroic actions but one that is defined by their heroism, she turns herself into a powerful, and of course, bad-ass, black female icon. – – – Bailey Holden
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow – – – The Avengers (2012 onward)
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / “Black Widow”; Marvel Cinematic Universe – The studio has done an amazing job taking their comic book characters which have had moderate to minuscule popularity among readers and the general populace, and turning them into household names. One of these is Johasson’s take on the super-spy/assassin, the Black Widow.
Originally, the character didn’t make much of an impression in Iron-Man 2, as Romanoff was reduced to playing an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. & being Pepper Potts’ right-hand woman in running Stark Industries, but it wasn’t until 2012’s The Avengers and 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier were we got to see the full range of the character as a bad-ass on screen: she could throw down with the likes of a Captain America and a Hawkeye and save their ass from mortal peril from time to time.
I also love how conflicted Romanoff can be: she’s a killer who’s done awful things for awful people, and now she’s still trying to decode if she’s killing for the right people or if it’s just an unending cycle of violence and death for her. She’s force to be reckoned with, whether alone or with her group of Avengers. Now, if Kevin Feige could get cracking on that Black Widow solo movie… – – – Jonathan Holmes
Carol Connelly – – – As Good as It Gets (1997)
Carol Connelly (As Good As It Gets): Carol’s life as a busy single mother revolves around balancing the care of her severely asthmatic son with tirelessly working full-time at a diner, where she is the only waitress gracious and tolerant enough to deal with Melvin Udall, a misanthropic and OCD customer who demands her service only.
Carol’s obvious struggle is heartbreaking yet moving, and she is at times overwhelmed by the generosity shown to her by other people. Her feelings of powerlessness resonates with a lot of people experiencing similar strains, fellow single mothers especially, but her reluctance to accept help from peers proves her to be a resilient and gallant figure to her young son and those around her. – – – Rhiannon Topham
Vesper Lynd – – – Casino Royale (2006)
The very first James Bond film with Daniel Craig was also an introduction to Agent 007. We discover a much more vulnerable Bond than we have yet seen – and this boils down to one special woman. Bond meets British treasury agent Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) on a train, and from there they collide in all manner of emotional and eventfully dangerous ways. Vesper shows a heart-stopping trauma when she witnesses what Bond is capable of, but stands her ground with him – later saving his life.
Even with the fragile trust, they fall in love, Bond declaring he will quit MI6 so that they can be together – the power of a woman. When first he believes Vesper has betrayed him, he still tries to rescue her, but Vesper’s ultimate selfless sacrifice is to protect Bond – never a traitor, likely his strongest alley – before her tragic death she had made a deal, choosing his life over any amount of money, and leading 007 to the whereabouts of villain Mr White. – – – Robin Write
O-Ren Ishii – – Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Quinten Tarantino has been known to create strong female leads and this is none the more true when Lucy Liu stepped into the main light of his film. Arguably the greatest severed head collection in Hollywood belongs to that of O-Ren Ishi of Kill Bill Vol: 1. Disrespect her lose your head, offend her lose your head, if you so much as look at this woman in a less than flattering way off with your head.
When her parents were killed at a young age Ishi matured quickly along with honing a range of deadly skills and general crime lord activities. A female leader of Tokyo’s infamous Yakuza gang is more than a match for the protagonist of the Kill Bill franchise and Liu cemented herself as a true mainstay of the action film genre. – – – Mike Austin
Elle Driver – – – Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
How much of a bad-ass is Quentin Tarantino’s villainess? She was trained by Pai Mei, but wasn’t the most respectful of his students, so he ripped her left eye from her socket. In revenge, she poisoned his food and killed him. She filled Budd’s satchel of money with a Black Mamba snake, which eventually killed him over how he was the one that allegedly killed “The Bride”.
And Elle, at the beginning of Vol.1, she went over to the hospital where “The Bride” was laying in a coma for the sole purpose of killing her in her sleep, only to be stopped by Bill, via a phone conversation. She’s not above offing her own comrades to slay her mortal enemy, and she’s not above killing her teacher to get even. She’s ruthless to her core, and she’s one of Tarantino’s most fascinating antagonists he’s created. – – -Jonathan Holmes
Mallory Kane – – – Haywire (2011)
Steven Soderbergh at his slick, throw-away best, with Gina Carano, a martial arts fighter and apparent stunt woman, is Mallory Kane, an ex-marine and rather lethal operative, who is meant to be assassinated. Oh if only it were that easy you silly bad guys. No, Channing Tatum, she is not getting in the car with you. Throw coffee in Mallory’s face, then you deserve to have your arm snapped. No, Michael Fassbender, playing this treacherous charade is one thing, but attempting to beat Mallory in a fight is a fatal mistake.
Even in that tight evening dress she will get the better of you – sleep now you foolish man, here’s a cushion – Bang! And Antonio Banderes sums up the danger she can cause should you cross her with both his facial expression and words when she finds him in the film’s final moment: “shit.”. – – – Robin Write
Mary Tyrone – – – Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)
I was never one to go gaga over Kate Hepburn and I don’t think her bloated reputation as Hollywood’s greatest with umpteen Oscar noms will do her much good in the long term, but her performance as Mary Tyrone, the narcotics-addled matriarch in Sidney Lumet’s film version of Eugene O’Neill’s autobiographical play is probably one of the finest pieces of screen acting ever to come out of Tinseltown.
Her finely modulated performance of a broken spirit fresh out of rehab but secretly back on morphine, all the while trying to cover it by acting “normal” to deal with the myriad of familial issues smothering her, is heartbreaking and overpowering. Cannes saw it and gave her the Best Actress prize that year, even if Hollywood chose lesser, more sentimental fare to reward later on. – – – Steve Schweighofer
Hushpuppy – – – Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild was a wonderful surprise in 2012, not just in the recognition by the Academy, but in the impact on its audience, and the terrific performances by the two leads. Quvenzhané Wallis, at 9 years old, became the youngest Best Actress nominee in Oscar history. Her Hushpuppy (just 6 in the story) grabs the responsibility of tending to her ill, bad-tempered father Wink during an ensuing storm in southern Louisiana with whole-hearted determination.
As they both try to remain hopeful, little Hushpuppy stamps her feet and tantrums in the anxiety, but her goals and outlook are that of a trustworthy adult. The loyalty and compassion for her father is beyond words, with a little help from her “friends” and the self-sufficient pursuit, she gives Wink a flaming, but ultimately loving farewell. – – – Robin Write