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'Queen & Country': All the single action heroines get your hands up

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queen-country-watts_lFemale-driven action movie franchises are not, as they say, growing on trees in Hollywood. You can literally count them on one hand: Alien, Lara Croft, Terminator (at least until they became about Sarah Connor’s whelp), Resident Evil. Conventional wisdom states that men won’t go see action flicks driven by female characters and women want movies in which either the newest iteration of Meg Ryan pads around in slippers or Robert Pattinson sweeps their proxy off her feet. Which is all patently bollocks, and which makes the recent Queen & Country news — that Fox has hired writer Ryan Condal to adapt the blistering comics series described somewhat simply as “a female version of The Bourne Identity” — so encouraging.

Queen & Country, if you don’t know, is a comic book series written by Greg Rucka (who also wrote the Antarctic potboiler Whiteout, the adaptation of which is hitting theaters on Sept. 11) which follows the adventures of Tara Chace, one of a team of “minders” that work in the belly of Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency. Tara’s work can be brutal, isolating, and abusive — traveling around the globe to do horrible things for, as the title suggests, Queen and country. She’s a beautifully complex character, full of contradictions, flaws, and hidden reservoirs of strength, and the book — which has been collected by publisher Oni Press — is a masterwork of painstaking research (the first volumes were published before 9/11 and featured Al Qaeda as a direct threat) and storytelling acumen.

Queen had been bouncing in and out of development hell for a while now: Most recently, John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) wrote a draft of the script, and director Betty Thomas had been involved at one point, as had writer John Rogers (Leverage) and Nicole Kidman, who’d been lined up to star. This is a plum role for any actress out there — the lead in a giant action flick that also requires some real acting chops, unlike, say, Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen Concepts of Dramaturgy.

Me, I’d love to see Naomi Watts take a swing at the part: She’s got the beauty, and can summon the grit, that Tara demands. But I’m just thrilled that there’s some movement — Queen & Country is too good to sit on a shelf.

What do you think? Is there room in Hollywood for more femme-centric action fare? And who oughta play the tough-as-spider-silk Tara Chace?

PHOTO CREDIT: Watts: Walter McBride/Retna Ltd.

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