Taking a popular formula and swapping the genders of the main characters is a trendy game in Hollywood these days. With the success of the John Wick films, Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment want to see try the assassin action movie with a female lead.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Amblin has purchased a script for what is being pitched as a “female John Wick.” The project is titled Ruthless, and director Brad Peyton (San Andreas) is attached to helm the film and is also a producer. (Unfortunately, the report doesn’t include who wrote the screenplay.) Here is the synopsis of the plot from THR:
“The film centers on a retired assassin who returns to the game after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and needs one last job to provide for her daughter.”
The “one last job” is a familiar trope in crime and police stories. But it arguably applied to John Wick as well, since that character had gone into retirement and was pulled out of it to seek revenge on a Russian mobster’s son. Ruthless is taking a different spin on the formula, however, with the lead suffering from a terminal illness and taking on work to make sure she leaves something for her daughter. (Maybe the assassin will go into remission or even be cured if this movie is successful enough to warrant a sequel.)
Understanding that Quentin Tarantino mined this territory so well with the two Kill Bill films, the climate is just right for a female-driven action movie. Scarlett Johansson has had that genre to herself with playing Black Widow in the Marvel movies, Lucy and the upcoming Ghost in the Shell.
So the question becomes who plays the lead role? Is there a female equivalent to Keanu Reeves, who was still well regarded, but kind of in a dry spell and in need of a hit to revitalize his career. It’s also worth noting that very little was expected of John Wick, which appeared to be nothing more than a dark action movie. But the film was far better than expected, building a world and mythology for the underworld in which Wick worked, and providing good material for sequels.
Angelina Jolie seems like a good fit for this, if she’s interested in getting back into acting. She’s shown a talent for action films before and maybe the mother aspect of the role would appeal to her as well. Milla Jovovich needs something to do, now that the Resident Evil movie series has run its course. Charlize Theron has been an action hero, in Mad Max: Fury Road and Aeon Flux. Would the likes of Michelle Yeoh or Reeves’ former Matrix co-star, Carrie-Anne Moss, be seen as too old?
Skewing a bit younger, Rebecca Ferguson was outstanding as secret agent Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Michelle Rodriguez from the Fast and Furious movies? Ronda Rousey could be another possibility, coming off a Fast and Furious film, an Expendables sequel and the upcoming Road House reboot.
But this role also provides an opportunity to be more inclusive with casting. Halle Berry could be a Reeves equivalent in terms of her recent career path. Naomie Harris would also be a good choice. She’s handled action in 28 Days Later, Skyfall and two Pirates of the Caribbean films. Someone else also setting herself up nicely these days is Jing Tian, who just played an ass-kicking commander in The Great Wall, and will soon be seen in Kong: Skull Island and Pacific Rim: Uprising. But she’s probably too young to believably play a mother. The same could apply to Zoe Saldana, Gugu-Mbatha Raw or Kerry Washington.
If Amblin and Peyton really wanted to be blatant about the John Wick connection, why not cast Adrianne Palicki or Ruby Rose, both of whom portrayed assassins in those films? Palicki also has plenty of action bona fides, having played tough operatives in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Considering all of the possibilities, “a female John Wick” sounds like an even better idea. The only question is whether Brad Peyton can direct something as exciting and dynamic as Chad Stahelski has done with the John Wick films. His filmography doesn’t look good for that with a few family-friendly action films (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island). But maybe he has a fun action film in him. Here’s hoping.