Dawn of the Female Action Film Star

Dr Peter Han Area 49 Lead Scientist Dawn of the Female Action Film StarWomen have been kicking ass on the big screen for a long time. Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise leaps to mind, as does Uma Thurman’s uber assassin in Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2. Anne Parillaud pulled the trigger on plenty of bad guys in Le Femme Nikita, and Zoe Saldana reaped bloody vengeance in Columbiana. But none of these talented actresses could rightly be called an Action Film Star.

Haywire Gina Carano Dawn of the Female Action Film Star

Even Kate Beckinsale and Angelina Jolie, who’ve headlined in their own action film franchises and looked good doing it, and Milla Jovovich, who’s currently working on her sixth Resident Evil film (a.k.a. the franchise that won‘t die), are not considered Action Film Stars but rather actresses who star in action films.

The AFS title has traditionally been reserved for actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone — manly men who ooze testosterone while dropping villains and eye-rolling one-liners with equal relish. But as these aged action figures reluctantly ride off into the sunset (they  continue to crank out action flicks with varying degrees of success) a sizeable void will be left in their wake. And at a time when action heroes are rapidly being replaced by superheroes, who is capable of taking their place?

Gerard Butler, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have all done their fair share of action films over the years, but none of these guys are the next Schwarzenegger or Stallone. Butler is known for hisIn the Blood One Sheet Dawn of the Female Action Film Star mediocre romantic comedies as much as his action roles. Diesel’s success in the genre is limited to a single franchise (the Fast & Furious films). Johnson has never found that career-defining Rambo or Terminator role. And Statham’s two most successful films have been The Expendables movies which also happen to feature Arnold, Sly and every action film star from the past thirty years with the notable exception of Steven Seagal (who’s rumored to be in The Expendables 4).

Former professional mixed martial artist, Gina Carano, stepped into the spotlight in 2011 when she starred in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire and displayed her formidable fighting skills and enough acting ability to hold her own opposite heavyweights like Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and Michael Douglas. A beauty with a killer bod, budding screen presence and legitimate MMA street cred, Carano fits the mold of past martial artists turned action heroes like Seagal, Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme and shatters it at the same time.

This April Carano will appear in her second starring vehicle, In the Blood, which is about a woman who loses her husband in a foreign land and beats up a bunch of people in order to find him. And although the movie doesn’t sound terribly original other than the fact that it’s the supposedly weaker sex doing the fighting, it’s a crucial step in Carano’s acting career because where Haywire was a Steven Soderbergh film, In the Blood is one hundred percent a Gina Carano film.

Ronda Rousey Dawn of the Female Action Film StarAlthough Haywire was an entertaining action movie it wasn’t a particularly profitable one, costing a reported $23 million and earning just over $33 million worldwide (according to Box Office Mojo). The big question is will action film fans, who are predominately male, buy tickets this time around? And the other big question is will females hit theaters in significant numbers to watch a woman in what has  traditionally been a man’s role and make Hollywood take notice?

These are intriguing questions not just for Carano but for another real life femme fatale waiting in the wings. Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey is the current UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion and considered to be the #1 pound-for-pound female MMA fighter in the world, and she will be following in Carano’s footsteps when she appears in The Expendables 3 this August and Fast & Furious 7 in 2015 (Carano was in Fast & Furious 6). If the bad-ass blonde with a winning smile has the acting chops it’s not inconceivable that she could be starring in her own action movies someday soon, especially if In the Blood makes money.

Do these ladies have what it takes to earn the AFS title? Only time, and the box office, will tell.

Dr. Peter Han