July 11th, 2008

Girls With Guns

Having recently seen Wanted, I've been thinking about my favorite action movie sub-genre: Girls With Guns. Yep, I love 'em. I'm not talkin' big, serious flicks about proactive heroines like Silence of the Lambs or Thelma and Louise or even Alien(s). No, I'm cheering on the ones that know there's something vaguely absurd about a woman lugging some bigass gun and just run with it. Here's my top five. And then a list of the bottoms, just to round things out.

1. So Close - Shut up, it is the best Girls With Movie ever. C'mon, the opening scene is dropdead gorgeous Shu Qi in Chow Yun-fat's white suit from The Killer slinking down the high-tech halls of a skyscraper shooting guys in the kneecaps, all set to a Hong Kong knock-off of the Carpenters' "Close to You". You also get two more gun-toting babes, Karen Mok and Vicky Zhao Wei, some great swordplay, and one of the best martial arts fights ever put on film, as Mok's cop and Qi's assassin duke it out with fists, kicks and hair (yes, HAIR!). Every kind of awesome.

2. La Femme Nikita - No, dork, not that stupid American tv thing. Nah, we're all over Luc Besson's original feature film, with the feline Anne Parillaud as the punk-turned-hitwoman. This was the classy kind of camp, complete with Jeanne Moreau as one of Nikita's teachers and Jean Reno as "The Cleaner". Oh yeah, and the kitchen shootout, with Parillaud in a designer sheathe crouching behind counters and popping off shots, is a classic.

3. Coffy - It was hard to pick between this and Jack Hill's other Pam Grier classic Foxy Brown, but this was the original so I went with it. Pam Grier was young, enthusiastic and hot as the pistols she periodically shot guys with on her vendetta. I love everything Jack Hill did, but this one also had that bitchin' "Coffy is the COLOR!" funk song goin' for it. Yeah, baby.

4. Wanted - Yep, liked it that much. Granted, the young guy is the real protagonist, but come ON - we just can't wait for Angelina Jolie's "Fox" (perfect name, ain't it?) to come back on the screen and fire somethin' else. Added bonus: She beats the shit out of the kid with her bare fists (well, okay - and some brass knuckles) at one point.

5. Barbarella - Okay, I really put this on here just because I wanted a science fiction Girls With Guns movie and I couldn't think of anything else that didn't suck. And this does have young blonde Jane Fonda being flown over the labyrinth by Pygar the Blind Angel while she shoots the Black Queen's mechanized flying guards out of the sky. Oh yeah, and she has lots of sex. What's not to love.

Honorable Mentions: I was going to include Hong Kong's Yes, Madam, but I really think of it more as a martial arts movie, and besides, we didn't need two Corey Yuen movies (he also directed So Close). Well, wait - yes, we need even more Corey Yuen movies. We always need more Corey Yuen. Also: Faster, Pussycat, Kill, Kill, which never really does the Girls With Guns thang, but it's still so great it deserves a mention.

And now the bad bad girls:

1. Mr. and Mrs. Smith - Yep, it's Angelina again, but everything that Wanted got right this thing blew. All that time it spent on (unsuccessfully) trying to be hip it could have been using to show Angie blowing guys away, but NOOOOOOO, it had to try to be big and sophisticated and boring. Yawn.

2. Point of No Return - I will forever be mystified at how this American La Femme Nikita managed to simultaneously be a nearly frame-by-frame remake and completely dull. Well, yeah, okay...Bridget Fonda was way better at something like Jackie Brown's annoying stoner chick than punk hitwoman, but that still doesn't completely explain it. Just...suckass all the way around.

3. The Avengers - Yeah, I know Mrs. Peel wasn't really a Girl With Gun, but damn - she did shoot the cork out of the champagne bottle in the opening titles of the color season of the old series. And the big-budget movie did suck on every single level. An astonishing amount of terribleness here - dull, badly made, completely miscast, and...did I mention dull? Blecch.

4. The Brave One - Maybe it shouldn't be on here, because it was trying to be a big serious examination of feminine violence an' crap, but...I'm sorry, I giggled and groaned way too often. What a misconceived mess. So is Jodie Foster a female Walking Tall-style vigilante...or a sensitive girl who cries a lot because that gun is big and heavy and scary and how did it get in her hand and...? Try neither; she inadvertently ended up being a wannabee camp queen (just not a very entertaining one).

5. Savage Streets - Another one that maybe I'm being unfair to - oh wait, that's right - it sucked! I'm really using this as just a sample of any of those dreary '80s cheapies about girls on vendettas. They were all kind of gloomy and not much fun. Granted, this one had Linda Blair and Linnea Quigley, but the director sure as hell wasn't Jack Hill, and none of these '80s things had any sense of fun about them. Good thing that decade is over, I say.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Kill Bill, which - as with the sublime Yes, Madam - I didn't include because it's really more of a martial arts movie. But damn, another overhyped, overarch suckfest. Somebody should keep Uma Thurman away from these movies. Also: The Quick and the Dead had a great premise - female Old West gunslinger - and Sharon Stone looked fab in her outfits, but they wimped her out before this thing even reached the halfway point. Tragic.

"So, Lisa," I hear you saying, "if you like these movies so much, why don't YOU write one, huh?" Oh, what, like you think I haven't? It just ain't sold. Yet. But if it ever does, I promise it will be one of the best Girls With Guns movies of all time.