Culture

Stephanie Plum and 5 Other Tales of Kick-ass Females

Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum/Photo © 2011 Ron Batzdorff/Lionsgate
Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum/Photo © 2011 Ron Batzdorff/Lionsgate

Most of us know Katherine Heigl best as Dr. Izzie Stevens from “Grey’s Anatomy” or, you know, that blonde girl from those romantic comedies. But now Heigl is trading in her blonde for brunette and her twenty-eighth bridesmaid dress for handcuffs as she takes on the role of Stephanie Plum in “One for the Money.” The movie, based on the bestselling novel by Janet Evanovich, introduces Plum, a down-on-her-luck, out-of-a-job lingerie buyer who finds work with her bail bondsman cousin, Vinnie. Sure, antics will ensue and Heigl will continue to flex her comedic muscles, but this time she’ll be bringing a bit of kick-ass to the table as well.

Perhaps it’s Heigl’s latest role, or the Lisbeth Salander-mania that’s been permeating pop culture for the past couple of months, or the New Year’s resolutions that have us all in the gym and feeling a little stronger this January, but we’ve got bad-ass females on the mind. So here are a few from film adaptations in recent years we truly found extraordinary.

Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (2009, 2011)
Lisbeth Salander. The name that’s been on everyone’s lips since David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” adapted from the Stieg Larsson book, hit theaters in mid-January. She’s a punk. She’s damaged. She attracts trouble. But she’s also brilliant, relentless, determined – and certainly no victim. Salander was first brilliantly brought to life by Noomi Rapace in Niels Arden Oplev Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in 2009, and Rooney Mara brought her own edge to the role with the more recent version – and has already earned herself a Golden Globe nomination.

Ree in “Winter’s Bone” (2010)
Ree, played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie “Winter’s Bone,” based on the book by Daniel Woodrell, is angry and she’s on the hunt. Her drug-dealing deadbeat father leaves the family – including Ree’s catatonic mother and two young siblings – in a lurch when he goes missing while out of prison on bail. Arrested for meth, Dad posts his house as part of his bond, and if he’s not found – either dead or alive – the house will be seized by the authorities. Seventeen-year-old Ree, however, isn’t one to sit idly by while her meth-head father gets off scot-free and she sets off on a manhunt that brings her face to face with the lowest of the low, the most brutal of the brutal, culminating in a scene that will leave you wondering, “Could I do what she did?”

Mattie Ross in “True Grit” (2010)
In other father-daughter news, Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross is on a revenge quest to find her pop’s murderer in “True Grit,” based on the novel by Charles Portis. Believing that her dad was murdered by one of his employees, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie hires the rough and resistant Rooster Cogburn, played by the ever-talented Jeff Bridges, and sets out with Rooster and Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) on a trek the Coen Bros kept true to the book. Over the course of the journey, with both river crossing and rifle shooting Mattie proves herself to be a true badass.

Maggie Fitzgerald in “Million Dollar Baby” (2004)
Hilary Swank’s portrayal of boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” adapted by Paul Haggis from the short stories in Rope Burns by F. X. Toole, earned her a second Oscar for best leading actress – and it’s no wonder. The up-from-nothing tale of Maggie’s turn from her waitressing days in the Ozarks to welterweight rising star astounded audiences. And while most of us know how this story ends – pass the tissues, please – Maggie’s fight to the finish is one worth mention.

Clarice Starling in “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
Some movies just stay with you, sending shivers down your spine each time you think of certain of their scenes. “The Silence of the Lambs,” based on the book by Thomas Harris, is one such movie. Not one but two psychopaths – Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) – torment the mind of FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, portrayed impeccably by Jodie Foster. Starling lacks the timidity – and naivety – of novices, though, and throws herself into a dialogue with Dr. Lecter wholeheartedly, realizing that he is the key to the recent disappearance of Catherine (Brooke Smith, another "Grey’s Anatomy" alum). In a pulse-pounding sequence of events, Starling proves herself an agent worthy of recognition -- and worthy of the descriptor "kick-ass."

Tell us: Which bad-ass females from adaptations are missing from our list? And yes, we wish "Kill Bill," "Colombiana," and "The Matrix" were adaptations, too.

  • Rhonda

    YES! I was hoping I would find Lisbeth Salander on this list...I've recently finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire and I'm currently reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. I've never been more intrigued with a literary character! Not sure I want to see the movie though...I don't see how it could possibly hold a candle to the book. I'm almost always severly disappointed in film adaptations.

  • Rob Maxwell

    My favorite in this category by far: the intrepid Grace Sundown of "Deep Creek" (a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010.) Brave, beautiful, speaks three languages, has a secret identity, and able to outwit extremely bad guys; in a long-term on-again-off-again relationship with the equally intrepid reluctant-lawman hero. And (bonus points) she's half-French, half-Nez Perce. Would LOVE to see a movie of this book.

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