‘Hanna’ and Other Vengeful Youth in Film

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Joe Wright’s Hanna, hitting theaters tomorrow, is the tale of a tough, ruthless teenage girl (played by Wright’s Atonement star Saoirse Ronan), trained as an assassin by her ex-CIA agent father (Eric Bana) in the Finnish wilds and sent on a killer mission. (If you haven’t seen the certifiably bad-ass trailer, do yourself the favor of setting aside three minutes to watch it.) Though the cold-hearted young female killer is a fairly novel heroine, it’s not a completely new cinematic creation, either; join us after the jump for a look at some of our favorites from films past.

Charlie McGee, Firestarter

Hanna’s closest cinematic ancestor may very well be this 1984 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, which starred Drew Barrymore (still enjoying her post-E.T. glow) as Charlie McGee, whose parents met as test subjects for a hallucinogenic drug called “Lot 6,” administered by a secret government agency known as “The Shop.” The drug gave her father the gift of (momentary) mind control and her mother telekinesis; Charlie, their offspring, has pyrokinetic ability — in other words, she can set fires with her mind. As with Hanna, the government tries to control what they (indirectly) created, but when Charlie comes after them, they clearly don’t know what they’re up against.

Matilda, Leon (aka The Professional)

Perhaps the best-known child assassin to date is Matilda, the young would-be killer of Luc Besson’s Leon (retitled The Professional for its initial American release), played by Natalie Portman in her feature film debut. Matilda lives next door to flawless assassin Leon (Jean Reno). When her family is wiped out by a rogue cop (Gary Oldman), Matilda first takes refuge with Leon, then implores him to teach her the tricks of the trade.

Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass

Forget the snooze-worthy title character; the thrills of Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 superhero effort Kick-Ass are provided by Chloë Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl, the cheerfully foul-mouthed 11-year-old daughter of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). Trained in martial arts, marksmanship, and swordplay, the character is played by Moretz with giddy, charming enthusiasm. She also gets the film’s show-stopping action beat, a slam-bang sequence that begins with a Morricone cue and ends with a bender of stylized gunplay and acrobatics reminiscent of vintage John Woo.

Mitsuko Souma, Battle Royale

Kinji Fukasasku’s adaptation of Koushun Takami’s novel concerns a government-run program in which a class of students are isolated on a deserted island and forced to fight and kill until only one is left standing. Perhaps the most chilling character in is Mitsuko Suomoa, whose willingness to use her sexuality as a tool provides some truly dark moments; her pre-island past turns out to be less than sunny as well.

Gogo Yubari, Kill Bill Vol. I

Quentin Tarantino was such a Battle Royale fan that Mitsuko inspired Gogo Yubari, the personal bodyguard and top assassin of O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) — herself a killer since childhood. Gogo, all of 17 years old and clad in a schoolgirl outfit (of course) takes on our heroine, The Bride, at the conclusion of her blood-splattered battle with the Crazy 88 at the House of Blue Leaves. She comes closest to getting the best of The Bride, but her meteor hammer proves no match for The Bride’s Hanzo sword.