It has just been reported that Angelina Jolie will be reprising her role as double-triple agent Evelyn Salt. Jolie has carved herself a niche as one of the top actions stars in cinema, regardless of her sex. It is always empowering to see a female kick some serious butt on screen (at least it is for me), but what is most unique about Jolie is that she easily takes on roles that were originally envisioned for men and the movies don't lose any of their box office appeal, nor does she lose any of her sex appeal portraying a woman to be reckoned with.
Jolie's super-spy in Salt played her allegiances close to the chest until the last quarter of the movie — is she a Russian agent? An American one? An American crossed over to the Russians? The reverse? One who has crossed over and then crossed back again? But through all of the flips and outright uncertainty in some of her character's actions, it didn't really matter. Throughout the film, no matter whose side she is on, the audience is with Jolie. She is unstoppable, escaping from her CIA coworkers, leaping over trucks on the Capital Beltway, shooting her way out of oil tankers, breaking into the Presidential bunker. Salt and Jolie are a lot of fun.
There have been some fabulous movie hero(ines) over the past thirty years. Geena Davis flirted with action/adventure in The Long Kiss Goodnight. Uma Thurman kicked major ass in Kill Bill. Science fiction as a genre has enabled even more actresses to take on kick-ass roles. Sigourney Weaver blew everyone away as Ripley in the Alien trilogy. Linda Hamilton was great in Terminator 2. Carrie-Ann Moss in The Matrix movies and Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil series have been more recent sci-fi heroines. But Angelina Jolie has consistently, throughout her career, opted to play physical (sometime physically violent) characters, whether heroes or villains. These movies are not just highlights in her career, but make up a significant portion of what she does. Since 1999, of the 21 characters she has played in movies listed on imdb 11 of them were action/adventure oriented:
The voice of Tigress (animated, but still, Tigress kicks major butt) Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), Kung Fu Panda Holiday Special (2010, TV short), Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Elise Clifton-Ward in The Tourist (2010) - A fatal femme who has to save Johnny Depp's butt.
Evelyn Salt in Salt (2010)
Fox in Wanted (2008) - This movie is absurd and absurdly violent and extreme and extremely fun and the scene where Jolie's Fox "boards" a train is amazing.
Grendel's Mother in Beowulf (2007) - Even an animated Jolie makes a great and dangerous villain.
Jane Smith in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) - Jolie and Pitt are well-matched as assassins. It's sexy and violent and loads of fun.
Franky in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) - She definitely did this one so she could wear the eyepatch.
Illeana in Taking Lives (2004) - Jolie is a cop trying to decide what exactly Ethan Hawke knows about some grisly killings.
Lara Croft in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) - It may be based on a video game, but Jolie brings wit and va-va-va-voom to Lara, her first action franchise.
Sara 'Sway' Wayland in Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000) - Total fluff, but Jolie is great as a wild child bent on larcenous adventure.
Amelia Donaghy in The Bone Collector (1999) - One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies, Jolie is great as an eager young cop who becomes the eyes and ears of paralyzed detective Lincoln Rhyme (Denzel Washington). And Jolie and Washington have amazing chemistry.
Jolie actively seeks out the action, and besides the endless tabloid speculation about her weight, she manages to convince. Salt 2 or whatever the geniuses in marketing choose to call it will be her second action franchise, third if we count Panda. Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise can't even say that.