Friday, January 28, 2011

Female Duo Revenge Movies

Last night I watched The Assassin Next Door, a rather good, powerful and emotional movie about Galia, a young mother who's trapped in Tel Aviv working (as far as I can tell) as an indentured escort for an organized crime syndicate. She's got a daughter back in Kiev and she's trying to get home, but since her passport is being held hostage, she has no way to escape.

Oh, here's a link to the IMDb page on The Assassin Next Door. Incidentally for Neil Marshall fans, the actress who plays Galia is the "huntress" Etain in Centurion. If you haven't seen that film, just stop reading now, go see it, and then come back here.

Eventually bad stuff happens, and then there's more bad stuff, and Galia is given the offer that, if she'll act as a trigger-(wo)man on a couple of hits, she'll be given her passport and tickets and money to go home. Galia moves into a shitty apartment building during this time, and finds herself next door to Elanor, a young wife of an abusive husband who fights with her and beats her every night.

Eventually Galia and Elanor enter into a friendship and partnership as each helps the other get out of their awful situation. Fear not, folks - I have not suddenly started watching the Oxygen channel. While there is a lot of emotion and talk about friendship and loss and childbirth yadda yadda yadda (which I will say, is done with craft and subtlety and a fair degree of good acting), there are a number of gunfights and some pretty shocking displays of violence. This movie falls squarely into that category of "Violent Drama"; it's not an action movie, but the action that does take place is brutal, graphic, and very meaningful and real.

I find it interesting that some of the best female revenge stories I can think of (Kill Bill excepted, of course), such as this movie, Thelma & Louise, and as one person pointed out to me, Bound, feature a pair of women who form a relationship and partnership to work through their conflict. On the other hand, when guys get vengeance in movies or books, it's almost a "Lone Wolf Crusade", where there is no partner in crime.

I am not sure if I think of this as a bad stereotype, or rather, a negative stereotype. Certainly as Kill Bill shows you can have strong solo female revenge stories, and in terms of male revenge stories where there is a partnership, you most often have the "buddy cop" archetype where one guy is out to avenge a partner or some similar injustice, and his new partner finally agrees to help him on his crusade.

I feel the question is, when you tend to have women seeking revenge in a partnership while men seek it on their own, are you saying women need to work together to take on their male nemesis, while men don't need help? Or is it that a female revenge story seems to work best with two characters in a team playing off against each other in the same way that "buddy cop" movies work so well with partners playing off against each other?

If anyone can point me towards other female revenge films where there is actually a pair of female protagonists, I would appreciate it. I'd like to explore this idea and see if there are any conclusions that can be drawn.

2 comments:

☠ KATHULHU ☠ said...

I wonder if movies are more apt to show women teaming up because they are more open to accepting help than a man would - IE a man won't ask for directions when he is a lost but a woman will?

Eventually the man will realize that he can't do it himself and that's when he takes on the sidekick or new partner.

There is also Diabolique - both the original 1955 movie & the 1996 remake.

Empress said...

I have to echo Kathulhu--women tend towards cooperation and teamwork--networking. Call it the family urge, the mother urge, whatever, but there is something in most women that leans toward the unit rather than the solo.

There's also the old saw, "If captured in war, NEVER let them give you to the women." Aside from implying that women are far more cruel when it comes to dealing with threats, the unspoken part is that, to incite this cruel side, you must threaten what a woman holds dear OR put another in danger.

You cite Thelma and Louise, a movie near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons--what incites the action is Thelma's rape and the rapist's utter contempt. None of their crimes from there on out are gratuitous--e.g. when they put the statie in his trunk, they give him airholes. Easier would have been to just shoot him. They don't rob the old man at the roadside gas station--Louise trades her earrings.

When the final showdown comes, they don't pull an arsenal out of the car and start mowing down staties and feds--if it were two men or a man and a woman in the car, they would have died in a hail of bullets. Instead, rather than cause unnecessary destruction, they take off.

The "fun" crime in the film--the gorgeous, glorious tanker explosion--is done to chastise the adulterous trucker who has been sexually harassing them along the road. Blowing up the tanker is also a symbolic chastising of all of the men who have cheated these two women.

I can't comment on the film you watched last night, although I remember when it came out and now REALLY want to see it, but from what you said, all of the action is motivated by a very female need to protect someone weaker--a child, an abused woman--and help someone weaker find her strength.

That tends to be at the heart of all chick flicks, at least the good ones.