The H2H combat scenes in Marvel's Agent Carter offer proof that a skilled actress and fight choreographer can overcome a lack of martial arts training.

In the 2014-15 network TV season, there's been an increase in the number of heroines who are able to physically handle themselves against male opponents. They include Laura Diamond in The Mysteries of Laura on NBC, Meredith Brody in NCIS: New Orleans on CBS, Sameen Shaw in Person of Interest (also on CBS) and the most engaging one of all, Peggy Carter in Marvel's Agent Carter on ABC. What's impressive about the actresses who portray these law-enforcing characters is that they have no background in action film or television and no experience in the martial arts — yet they all do decent fight scenes. Granted, stunt doubles are inserted to maintain the slick pugilistic intensity, but it's done sparingly and doesn't disrupt the energy or visual rhythm. Often, the key to making these film fights work is ending things on a high combative note: a knockout punch or kick, a dynamic throw into a piece of furniture, or a violent hurling through a door or window. The Difference That said, what's so unique about Agent Carter? The actress who portrays the lead character and the setting in which she gets things done. At least 105 films have been adapted into TV shows. Of the 52 live-action programs based on films, only one features in both the film and TV incarnations a main character who’s played by the same actor — in this case, Hayley Atwell. As Carter, she's the trusted friend of Howard Stark (father of Tony Stark, aka Iron Man) and the girlfriend of Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014).


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That gives Agent Carter a strong sense of continuity and makes it easier for the audience to connect with the heroine. Thus, even though Captain America isn't in the TV series, when Carter flashes back to her relationship with Rogers, it doesn't feel forced. The Setting It's 1946, and Carter, a former French resistance fighter and intelligence gatherer, works for the SSR, an American covert agency that monitors the Soviet Union. Disappointingly, she's assigned only jobs that women are thought capable of: doing administrative work, fetching coffee, ordering lunch, filing papers and so on. It’s the embodiment of sexism. In reality, however, Carter is on a secret mission to clear the name of Howard Stark, whom the SSR suspects is selling weapons of mass destruction to the Commies.

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Enter Russian spies and assassins. Carter is tasked with stopping their latest plot to destroy America: Project Leviathan. That mission puts her directly into the fray, where she gloriously whoops and wails in up-close-and-personal hand-to-hand combat. Built like a brick house, Carter can kick a man's butt so badly that his colon becomes a semicolon. The Star "I'm very clumsy,” Atwell jokingly admits. “I've unfortunately kicked various stuntmen in sensitive areas, and I'm not that popular with men on set. “I've hit a grip over the back with a lead pipe and kicked a chair into one of the assistant directors, all while I was rehearsing stunts." Yet on camera — with help from quick pans and close-up shots — Carter looks coordinated, confident and smooth. Credit goes to Atwell, as well as the fight choreographer. (Photos courtesy of ABC) Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.
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