The Teen Girl Assassin Subgenre Refuses to Go Down Without A Fight

By  · Published on October 14th, 2014

Columbia Pictures

It looks like the totally hypothetical Cinematic Teen Hit Girl Club is getting a brand new member. Deadline reports that The Giver star Odeya Rush has signed on to star in Hunter’s Prayer, a Jonathan Mostow-directed action-thriller about “a young girl who teams up with the assassin hired to wipe out her family to find the person responsible.” Oh, a buddy flick! Sam Worthington is already on board to play said assassin, who helps Rush’s Ella “navigate the tangled web of hitmen and thugs on her quest for justice.” And we thought you could just PayPal hitmen money.

Rush now joins a subgenre of films that center on guns, girls and (screw any attempts at alliteration) just plain illegal activities. And yet, said subgenre isn’t nearly as bankable as it once (oh so briefly) was, so why do we keep getting films about gun-toting teens with attitude? (Don’t say, “because it looks cool!”)

The Professional (1994)

The original and still the best. Luc Besson’s seminal actioner isn’t the first film about killer teens, but it is the most prominent of this particular subgenre and it’s still the best example of what can be accomplished within its framework. It’s got it all – a great cast, solid drama, cool action and a big, beating heart. Yes, watching Jean Reno and Natalie Portman straight up murder scads of people looks awesome, but the film doesn’t balk at exploring deeper emotions and morality issues. Why make another hardcore teen girl assassin film when The Professional already exists?

Let the Right One In (2008) and Let Me In (2010)

No, Eli and Abby are not traditional assassins – although, the case could be made that vampires are nature’s (uh, fake nature’s) most dangerous hitmen – but the pair work within the same constructs as other “trained” killers. They’re brutal, they’re highly evolved and they tend to go after people who really deserve a beatdown. If you’re going to put a twist on the genre, this is a solid way to do it: clever, dark, mean.

Kick-Ass (2010) and Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Or you can just go the superhero route. If 2010 was anything, it was the year that Chloe Moretz broke out as a teen killer (on screen only, obviously – uh, we hope) with turns in both Let Me In (perhaps her best role to date?) and Kick-Ass. Both of Moretz’s 2010 characters are haunted kids who are far older than their looks indicate (Let Me In’s Abby is literally older, thanks to that whole vampire thing, while Kick-Ass’s Mindy just plain never had a childhood). The first Kick-Ass was purposely upsetting and dark and vicious, the kind of material that Jeff Wadlow failed to duplicate in its followup. The revenge theme runs through both features, but Kick-Ass did it best. It’s probably also why it’s the highest-grossing feature here. It was all downhill after.

Hanna (2011)

Here’s a fun fact: Joe Wright’s killer kid feature is the highest-grossing non-superhero film in the bunch. Saoirse Ronan’s turn as a trained assassin with plenty of secrets (some of them so profound and deep that she doesn’t even understand them) put an elegant twist on the subgenre, and the returns were generous. If there was ever an argument that, hey, maybe The Professional isn’t the end all and be all, this was it.

Violet & Daisy (2011)

Well, this is awkward. Two years after starring in the highest-grossing killer teen girl feature, Ronan also starred in, uh, the lowest-grossing one. Violet & Daisy tried to enliven the genre with some laughs. It didn’t work. The film made less than $20,000 in release.

Barely Lethal (2015)

And here’s an upcoming attempt at mining assassination drama for, well, laughs. Hailee Steinfeld stars in this upcoming action comedy as a world-class assassin who fakes her own death to get out of the killing game. Shockingly, when she attends high school for a shot at normalcy, she finds it’s even worse (!!) than killing people for a living. The film’s tagline is “Click. Clique. Bang.” Help. If the last slew of teen girl assassin films are any indication, this one won’t be a hit, either. (Get it? A hit?)

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The teen girl assassin subgenre might have plenty of bang, but the bucks just aren’t there. What was the last teen girl assassin film you saw? Are you sick of reading “teen girl assassin film” yet? Teen girl assassin film.