If you were to make a list of action movies in which all the primary characters are women, how long would your list be? I’m not talking about the movies with only one woman, isolated in a sea of men. I’m talking about movies where there are multiple main characters, and they’re all women. Or even a majority. How many are there?
While you’re thinking about that, here are my thoughts on So Close (Chik yeung tin si). It’s a 2002 Hong Kong action film starring three women. Qi Shu and Zhao Wei are high-tech assassin sisters Lin and Sue. Karen Mok is Hong Yat Hong, the brilliant detective who’s out to stop them. There are plenty of men in the movie, but they all fade into the background. The three women predominate.
So Close has its weak points. The film’s creators are obviously trading on Qi Shu and Zhao Wei’s looks, and there is a regrettable bathtub splash-fight scene near the beginning that caused much eye-rolling in my household. And after extensive testing with the latest instruments in the Heroine Content laboratories, Lin was found to have no identifiable personality traits.
Fortunately for us, though, Sue and Hong are quirky and dynamic. They have depth, and their relationships with each other and with Lin grow and change over time. All three women are athletic, independent, determined, skilled, and practical. Aside from the aforementioned bathtub scene, the filmmakers mostly avoid the hyper-sexualization of movies like Charlie’s Angels. They’re not just bimbos with guns or plot devices. They’re people.
Best of all? No catfights. Seriously. When there are fights between women, they are FIGHTS. I was impressed.
I must admit, though, that I got bored after a while. I really wanted to love this movie, but near the end I was just waiting for it to be done. I can’t pin down why. How could three strong female characters and all that computer-generated breaking glass not keep my attention?
Still, the movie gets 3 stars. It’s one of the only action films I’ve seen that has women as the majority of its central characters, and it treats them as human beings with their own goals. That’s worth a lot.
So what’s your list? Off the top of my head, I have So Close, Charlie’s Angels, Bad Girls, and Tank Girl. Strange that the three American films have “angel” or “girl” in the title. Wouldn’t want to get tricked into seeing a film about girls, gotta have it in the title so people know what to expect!
This post was originally published on Heroine Content, a feminist and anti-racist movie blog that ran from July 2006 to May 2012.