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We will focus on actresses who have insistently devoted themselves to action cinema or whose career is framed in it. We leave aside names that have participated in an important film but whose career is not oriented to action films.
Put her name in a search engine and the image that will be returned to you will almost always be a variant of the already recognizable face of Mila wielding a gun (or two) and pointing it at a zombie’s brain. Her role as Alice in “Resident Evil” is one of the most recognizable in modern action cinema, and in fact, the franchise is one of the few that survives box office swings with some ease.
The series’ insane personality, which neither makes the slightest sense nor needs it, has prevented it from diversifying its roles into other types of roles, but its occasional forays into other adventure and action films have been interesting. From its presentation on a cosmic level in ‘The fifth element’ to the forgettable ‘Ultraviolet’ passing through the hilarious ‘The three musketeers’ or the very rare and vindicable ‘Joan of Arc’.
Michelle Yeoh made a career in the West after the success of ‘Tiger and Dragon’, but in Hong Kong she had already shot some of the best kung fu movies in memory.
When she first became known in the West for ‘Tiger and Dragon’, the film that revitalized Hollywood’s interest in classic kung fu cinema, Michelle Yeoh was already a star in Hong Kong and among fans of the most bombastic action cinema and excessive of the world. In fact, she had already temporarily retired at the end of the eighties after shooting for the D&B Group production company some of the best action movies in memory, such as the legendary ‘Yes Madam’, ‘Invincible Warriors’ or the incredible’ Ultra Force ‘.
He returned to the cinema in style, co-starring with Jackie Chan in one of the latter’s best-known films in the West, ‘Supercop’, and before ‘Tiger and Dragon’ he shot extraordinary action and martial arts films such as ‘Heroic Trio’ ( along with two other First Ladies, Anita Mui and Maggie Cheung) and its sequel ‘Executioners’, ‘Tai Chi Master’ or ‘Wing Chun’.
After ‘Tiger and Dragon’ she has combined roles in genre cinema with other more dramatic ones, such as in ‘Memoirs of a geisha’ (where she once again met with one of the Asian actresses who also achieved world fame with Ang Lee’s film,. Zhang Ziyi).
Her shocking participation in one of the best action films starring women of recent times, ‘Death Proof’, not only brought to the fore one of the most talented actresses consecrated to the genre of the screen, but a necessary vindication of the work of risk specialists in general, and of women in particular.
Bell is perhaps the most important professional in this field, and her work in productions such as ‘Xena’, ‘Kill Bill’ or ‘Alias’, often dubbing the leads, prove it. However, it is his charisma and sense of humor that have earned him time and again leading roles: his participation in films such as’ The Big Take ‘,’ Paradox ‘,’ The hateful eight ‘, Camino or the plagiarism of’ Los mercenaries’ via The Asylum ‘Mercenaries’ is increasingly abundant.
Well known in the West as one of the video club queens of the eighties, she earned a well-deserved fame as the female equivalent of Chuck Norris, even though Cynthia Rothrock outscored the karateka on a couple of points. On the one hand, she had a total of more than one and a half interesting movies, and on the other, she was a much more versatile combatant. She showed it in her film in the company of Michelle Yeoh, ‘Ultraforce’
It was not the only film that she shot in Hong Kong in the eighties, where she became a star of considerable fame and where she shot gems such as ‘On the edge of the law’ or ‘Millionaires Express’. In the West her films are less interesting because they did not know how to express her considerable forcefulness, but she beat her own in titles such as ‘China O’Brien’ or ‘Lady Dragon’.
As we’ve said, we’re not going to dwell too much on essentially dramatic actresses who have made occasional forays into action. Actresses like Sigourney Weaver (despite the fact that her Ripley is undoubtedly one of the fundamental characters in action movies with women at the helm) or Linda Hamilton (whose career beyond ‘Terminator’ is hardly known).
However, it is worth stopping by Angelina Jolie, an actress who, like every high-profile Hollywood star, has played very diverse genres and, when she has taken action, she has done so with excellent results and great spectacularity. Some of the milestones of her career could be the extraordinary ‘Salt’, the two installments of ‘Tomb Raider’, the fabulous’ Mr. and Mrs. Smith ‘or the hilarious’ Wanted’.
His characteristic look disturbed the cinema of series B and exploitation of the seventies in Japan and he became one of the most relevant proper names of the mythical Toei, after leaving the Nikkatsu despite the fame he was obtaining with his delinquent films adolescents when the producer emphasized eroticism and violence in her productions. It was in Toei where Kaji found fame, with the mythical saga ‘Female Convict 701’.
But she not only found fame with juvenile crime movies, but starring in the brutal epics of violence ‘Lady Snowblood’ and its sequel, as well as her collaborations with Kinji Fukasaku, such as ‘Yakuza Graveyard’. The echo of her serene physique and her expeditious outbursts of violence can be found in films like Tarantino’s ‘Kill Bill’, heavily influenced by Japanese cinema of the time.
With her we break our rule again, but the Trinity of ‘Matrix’ deserves a place here for reformulating the aesthetics and style of women within the action cinema of recent decades: androgynous (or, at least, not loading the inks in female eroticism), independent, expert in martial arts, serious and without the need to justify her forcefulness with artifice on her physical appearance.
Milla Jovovich or Kate Beckinsale (protagonist of ‘Underworld’, perhaps the most popular exploit of the Matrix) would not have made a career without the influence of Moss, a wonderful actress who would definitely be marked by the huge success of ‘Matrix’, despite the fact that He openly refused to continue the line marked by his most popular character, rejecting dozens of papers of pure trinity-xploitation.
The other great queen of classic martial arts cinema, thanks to her iconic participation in ‘Operation Dragon’ with Bruce Lee. Retired since the early 1990s and owner of a small chain of Chinese restaurants in New York, Mao lacks the technique and versatility of Kara Hui. But her iconic potential is overwhelming: some of her most prominent films of the time starring her could be ‘Lady Whirlwind’, ‘The Invincible Kung Fu Trio’ or ‘The Shrine of Ultimate Bliss’, initially planned to star Bruce Lee.
A unique actress in the sense that she has a status that allows her to occasionally participate in choral blockbuster productions such as ‘Fast & Furious’, but at the same time maintain a certain continuity as the protagonist of more modest productions and that allow themselves to be more violent, excessive and … well, and starring a woman. Very aware of this, Michelle Rodriguez has expressed on more than one occasion her discontent with the female presence in action blockbusters.
As things change, Rodriguez has been devoted to the genre almost since her debut in ‘Girlfight’. Since then she has been seen in such prominent franchises as ‘Machete’, ‘Resident Evil’ or the aforementioned ‘Fast & Furious’. We only hope that in the future he refrains from being carried away by such tempting, but toxic roles, like that of ‘Sweet Vengeance’.
One of the big stars of the wave of female actresses that flooded Hong Kong action cinema in the weeping eighties. Like so many other actresses of her generation, like Cynthia Khan, her astonishing elasticity – inherited from her experience as a professional dancer – lent a certain grace to the insane martial choreographies that she performed.
Her debut came in the historic ‘Zu. Warriors of the Magic Mountain ‘, but it was the tremendous’ Iron Angels’ that turned her and her co-star Yukari Oshima into stars. After them she starred in a score of action films in just half a decade.
October 28, 2020