Tonight marks the return of new episodes of the CW's "Nikita," which I've been dutifully watching mostly out of loyalty to the USA Network's "La Femme Nikita" (1997-2001). I've blogged before about "Nikita's" flaws, but I've come to believe that the lead actress, Maggie Q, is part of the problem. She's just not that believable as a kick-ass action star. She's so skinny that it's painful to watch the all too common scenes where she strolls around in a bikini. And her acting isn't bad in general, but it doesn't convey toughness.
This got me thinking about various actresses who've played tough heroines or villains in action movies or TV shows, and why some were good and others not so good.
Lucy Lawless: In real life, Lawless is kind of slender, but as Xena, she really looked like she was inflicting massive damage on the bad guys. Even better, when Xena was evil, Lawless was even better at depicting the mayhem and carnage in her wake. I'm not sure there's an actress who does a better job of snarling.
Angelina Jolie: I used to think that whole "carrying a vial of Billy Bob Thornton's blood on a necklace" thing was pretty weird, but that was a while ago. I haven't seen the Lara Croft movies, but seeing her in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and especially "Salt" has turned me into a believer in her fight scenes.
Summer Glau: Glau is petite, but in the movie "Serenity," she has a couple of amazing fight scenes -- basically her against dozens of much bigger opponents. She used to train ballet, and the fight choreographers tailored the fighting very effectively to her ballet skills.
Michelle Yeoh: I think she was the only Bond Woman who could plausibly have beaten up James Bond. Well, maybe Halle Berry too. Yeoh's been in a ton of Hong Kong movies, but this fight scene in the otherwise vastly overrated "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" explains her standing. The other actress, Ziyi Zhang probably belongs on the list too.
UPDATE (1/29): Steve Bainbridge weighs in, both in the comments here and at his own blog, with a video clip of his own.