For the sake of entertaining the stupid individuals who might disagree with the point I’m about to make, let’s say that maybe Jessica Chastain isn’t really tough. I mean, pull her out of a cinematic scope and you have an old-Hollywood throwback starlet who weaves between delicate and glamorous and gives kind and patient answers to interviewers. So sure, maybe she’s not a bar room brawler in her spare time. Perhaps she hasn’t even thrown a punch recently. Or ever, maybe. But, doesn’t that make it all the more obvious that her ability to convey quiet strength and frightening intensity needs to be contextualized at the center of a high-paced action movie?
Let’s move our investigation back within the cinematic scope, because that part is irrefutable: No working actor/actress holds a frame together better than Jessica Chastain. It seems like Chastain is the most prominent and focal occupant of any shot that catches her. Place her at the bottom, top, center, or corner of the frame. Capture her profile, her front facing portrait, or her back. Stand her up against a dozen tornados sweeping in from the ocean, a hulking and moonshine drunk Tom Hardy, a power hungry New York DA, a top level CIA boardroom, or even the extinction of the human race. Really any presentation and the read stays the same: “There’s a woman about to get the damn thing done.”
She’s an A-list star and a household name, sure to be a regular Oscar contender, but really, she’s only been given one leading role in a big budget, high profile film. And look what she did there… She took out the biggest, most vile enemy that America has ever faced. She carried a political drama on her back and ran with such grace, power, and focus that the movie felt like a high paced thriller. You want to know how effective Chastain was as the intelligence analyst who brought down the architect of 9/11? Just Google her character and check out the auto-complete:
Here’s what’s going on in the real world right now: Floyd Mayweather, a cowardly piss stain of a wife beater and child abuser, just tap danced and hugged his way to a million billion dollars and a championship belt in America’s fastest dying sport, while Ronda Rousey, maybe the single scariest person on the planet right now, is ripping bodies apart in fights that only last fourteen seconds in America’s fastest growing sport. Women are killing it in hardcore boat races. A fourteen year old Mo’ne Davis recently dominated a World Series, crossed up a grown ass man (kind of) on the basketball court during NBA All Star weekend, and then mercifully pardoned a male college athlete for ignorantly referring to her by a term that she shouldn’t even know exists.
Women around the world are kicking ass right now, and the best we can do to showcase this in movies is getting Black Widow to tickle the Hulk’s forearms and bat her eyes at any Avenger that might help the boys’ club narrative.
Meanwhile, as you read this, executives are probably meeting to do a “Replace All” on Brian Mills’ name in the Taken scripts and by the end of next year, we’ll all get to watch a winded, laboring Liam Neeson in the same I’m-too-old-for-this-shit revenge flick we’ve been watching him suffer through for ten years (when it’s only worked when he faced wolves). We’ve currently got three nonsense iterations of the absolutely useless Expendables series, a cut-and-paste ’90s collage that allows Stallone and his geriatric buddies to figuratively jerk themselves off while their ‘roided up arms prevent them from doing it in a literal manner, and there are roughly forty-three different movies where Jason Statham does donuts in an Audi and fires a pistol out the window.
Oh, and with Hot Pursuit opening in just a few days, we’re gearing up to have the second wide-release goofy ass female buddy cop movie from non-threatening women in three years (those women and their silly guns, am I right?), but still no big name action series built around a woman.
In this specific measure, MMA, professional wrestling, and NASCAR are proving to be more progressive than Hollywood. That’s particularly egregious and shameful when you consider that any man secure with the space in the front of his big boy pants can admit that right now, no matter where you’re standing in Hollywood, Jessica Chastain is the baddest motherfucker on the block.
Cast her in a single superhero movie– comic-savvy friends have suggested Chastain would be fitting for Medusa of the Inhumans, Poison Ivy, She Hulk, and Carol Danvers—and all of a sudden she might be the most intimidating figure in the DC and Marvel Cinematic Universes. Another friend suggested that we restart the Alien series with Chastain in the role of Ripley and that’s the only time I’ve ever said that revisiting one of Ridley Scott’s classic visions was a really good idea. Reboot Taken or Crank with Chastain in the driver’s seat and watch those tired throwaway films become interesting again. Give me an Expendables with Chastain wearing wigs and playing all the characters. Give me something, anything at all. Because right now, Jessica Chastain isn’t just the best female action star, she’s the best action star we have available.
And she hasn’t even done an action movie yet.