This week’s Colombiana sees Zoe Saldana play a young woman who becomes a ruthless killer in pursuit of the people who murdered her parents. She’s the latest in a long string of female assassins in the movies, where lady killers are a perennial favourite and, we think, much more common than in real life. But what if you want to follow her example and blow some fools away? We have studied the relevant pictures and assembled a handy How-To guide on getting in touch with your inner murderer-for-hire…
For some reason, every single dangerous woman on this list chooses to wear clothing that puts them at severe risk of circulatory blockage. Oh sure, if called upon to negotiate a web of laser beams, they’ll be glad they’re not wearing anything floaty, but even allowing for that possibility the sheer amount of leather and lycra on display – and the paucity of covering in general – seems excessive. One might have thought that such distinctive dress would rather make them stand out, at least outside of parts of Soho and certain MPs’ basements, but judging by every single movie about a hitwoman ever, it’s de rigeur for the job.
The easiest way to become an assassin is to get recruited by some sort of governmental, or quasi-governmental, organisation. Take Nikita, for example. She was recruited straight from prison after shooting a policeman during a robbery, and transformed into a killing machine after the government fakes her execution. Being brainwashed by the Russians as a child is also a possibility, as is working for non-national governing bodies. A council of vampires (Underworld), for instance. If you prefer to go rogue, you can probably find some rebel group (Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet). After all, it’s nice to have someone to pay the bills, provide you with spare cartridges and sweep the scene for evidence afterwards. They'll usually even cover dental insurance and plastic surgery, which just goes to show that the public sector might be the place to be after all.
There are two basic motives for female assassins, and one slightly more advanced model. Motive one – by far the most common – is avenging the death of your family members. If one or more of your parents has died, you are entirely justified in turning to assassination to secure the deaths of those responsible. See: Wanted, Leon, BloodRayne and Underworld for a few examples. The second motive is protecting a child, as seen in Aeon Flux, Ultraviolet and (latterly) Kill Bill: Part 2, because of those maternal instincts and what not. After all, we wouldn't want audiences to forget you're a lady! An attempted assassination that leaves you with gaps in your memory, as in The Long Kiss Goodnight, is an acceptable alternative in rare cases.
As with language training or learning to operate a chainsaw, the earlier you start learning your assassination skills, the better. Some of the best operatives have been mere striplings, pre-teens or just-teens who are all the better placed to take people unawares and then horribly kill them, perhaps using some bad language to really shock them in the process (ahem, Chloe Moretz!). The small size of these early starters also helps with the frequent breaking-and-entering duties of the average assassin’s life, as well as making it easier to hide and spring out in ambush on their victims. And, of course, young kids may be less tortured about the whole morality thing, which means there’s more time for action scenes and less need for talky bits.
Sometimes, the whole lone wolf thing gets old and you realise that it might be more fun to work with a cadre of like-minded ladies. After all, that way you can share guns and fashion tips for covering up bullet wounds and, er, whatever it is that girl assassins talk about. If you’re really clever, you’ll make sure that each of you have different strengths and skills – O-Ren Ishii might be better with sniper rifles while Elle Driver’s better with poisons, say – and of course you've all got each other’s back should your cover be blown and you find yourself exposed to the authorities / Nazis / whoever. As long as you don’t all turn on one another and totally kill each other, which can dent team spirit.
While the rules of movie physics (which are temperamental at the best of times) dictate that a 70lb girl is entirely capable of punching out a 200lb man, even the movies recognise that female assassins are best armed with a gun or two – or ten, or 20 – for back-up. From the heavily-armed Georgia Sykes in Smokin’ Aces to the high-tech likes of The Matrix’ Trinity or the Terminatrix, the mantra is clearly "Guns Are Good". Big guns, little guns that you can hide in an evening bag or garter belt: they’re all equally popular. When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherfucker in the room, heck, any of them are good. Even Xenia Onatopp, who prefers treating her victims to a session of asphyxiation by thigh, sees the value in a handy machine-gun.
Salt. Wanted. Mr & Mrs Smith. Angelina Jolie’s played a stone-cold killer three times, and has shown adjacent skills in other films like Kung Fu Panda, Lara Croft, Sky Captain and Alexander (poison alert!). Clearly casting directors think that the mother of six and UN Goodwill Ambassador is the scariest woman in the world. And in fairness, we believe that she’s able to take down grown men with a wink and a devastating chop to the neck / well-placed curved bullet / piece of kitchenware because she’s so damn cool. No unnecessary chat, no yellow tracksuits (who needs casualwear?); just all-action, all the time. Bring it.