Friday, February 9, 2018

Female action stars by VAR (Violence Above Replacement level)!

Serious stat-oriented baseball fans know about a concept called "wins above replacement" (WAR), which is roughly an estimated of how many wins over the course of a season that the player is better than freely available talent. In other words, if a star player were to be injured and miss the season, to be replaced by a minor league player, how many fewer wins would the team be expected to get?

WAR is a useful way to quantify the value of baseball players in many different ways. For example, players can be ranked by career WAR, which results in Babe Ruth at the top spot, followed by Cy Young, and then Walter Johnson, Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays to round out the top 5. Or players can be ranked by top WAR in a single season, which results in a bunch of players from the pre-1920s whom I've never heard of (because I'm not that serious of a fan).

While watching Atomic Blonde last night, and marveling at how much violence Charlize Theron's character Lorraine Broughton was inflicting on East German and Russian bad guys, I started re-evaluating my own subjective ranking of female action stars. Until now, I'd considered Lucy Lawless (aka "Xena: Warrior Princess") and Angelina Jolie (Salt, Wanted, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) to share the top spot, with Michelle Yeoh (numerous Hong Kong flicks as well as Tomorrow Never Dies), Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix), and Summer Glau (River Tam in "Firefly" and Serenity) to be worthy competitors.

But oh my gosh, Theron is AWESOME in Atomic Blonde. Like John Wick with Keanu Reeves (co-directed by Atomic Blonde's director David Leitch), the movie seems to have been written from a process of imagining the most intense, explosive fight/gun scenes that would showcase using the star and not a stunt double, and then filling in with a story as needed. And hoo boy did the production and choreography team put a lot of imagination into the action set pieces. At 5'10", Theron commands an imposing physical presence on screen, especially when she kicks guys down the stairs.

Still, was Atomic Blonde enough to vault Theron ahead of Lawless and Jolie as an action star? I decided to turn to an equivalent of WAR. Instead of "wins," though, the standard would be "violence," as in VAR.

For me, Jolie is still #1 in VAR. Besides Salt, Wanted, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, she was also in two Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies, which is a lot of violence! Lawless played Xena for six seasons, which is over 130 episodes. Her kill count has got to be higher even than Jack Bauer's. That makes her career VAR quite high too.

Theron's tenacious performance in Atomic Blonde might well put her at the top of the single movie/episodeVAR. It's definitely a MVP (most violent performer) role. I haven't seen Mad Max: Fury Road, but I've read that she was very good in that action role, too. That's two high VAR performances, but she has a ways to go to catch up to Lawless and Jolie.

In other words, get together with director Leitch and work on Atomic Blonde 2!