Action icon Keanu Reeves certainly tapped into a franchise-spawning comeback with 2014’s John Wick, whose sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 hit theaters just last week. However, it appears that the ensuing wave it created in the industry is just starting to arrive, with news of a spec script making the rounds that’s comparative to the Reeves’s embattled assassin epic, only centering on a female protagonist.
According to The Tracking Board, a script titled Ruthless by John Swetnam, a screenwriter behind films such as dance-centric streaming television series Making Moves, 2014 Richard Armitage-starring disaster movie Into the Storm and 2014 dance franchise sequel Step Up All In, is the center of a bidding war amongst studios. Swetnam’s script is being described as placing a female protagonist into a version of the John Wick paradigm – though, to clarify, it’s not connected to the series. However, most auspiciously the trade claims that “several A-list actresses” have read the script and are vying to land the lead. According to the project’s logline:
“When a legendary retired assassin is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she must return to the life she left behind and complete one final job in order to secure a future for her young daughter. Think a female John Wick. Or more accurately, think a female who could kick John Wick’s ass.”
The concept of a female assassin placed in a lead role is hardly an original or novel concept, even going beyond the bellwether moment of director Luc Besson’s stylish (remake and multiple-television-series-spawning,) 1990 breakthrough film La Femme Nikita. However, Keanu Reeves’s comeback with the original John Wick was rooted in the film’s artful balance of irreverence, darkness and spectacle. Moreover, it achieves that balance on the back of a reasonable budget, simplifying profit margins. Indeed, the third place weekend debut of John Wick: Chapter 2 (featuring the above-pictured Ruby Rose as female assassin Ares,) was hardly a “loss,” since – currently at $44.5 million worldwide – the film has already recouped its $40 million budget in just a few days.
Thus, while the sight of Scarlett Johansson’s skin-suit-sporting android in the ubiquitous Ghost in the Shell trailer, Milla Jovovich in the recent long-running franchise conclusion Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Kate Beckinsale’s latest run in Underword: Blood Wars prove that today’s action films rock plenty of estrogen, they also happen to be in big-budget monoliths that aren’t as exactly amenable to risk-averse studio heads as the John Wick model. Thus, John Swetnam’s Ruthless project could very well be a sign of things to come, especially as the female-star-brandishing big-name franchises taper out.
Ruthless is still being courted in a studio bidding war, but it will certainly be interesting to see how things play out, especially with the project apparently on the radar A-list actresses.