Ewan McGregor and Gina Carano in Haywire.
At last a female action star that can believably kick some ass! Zoe Saldana, in the awful Colombiana, and Angelina Jolie in Salt, both tried to play deadly females, but they look as if a strong wind could knock them over and if they threw one punch their twig like arms would snap in two. Gina Carano, the star of this film, on the other hand, is a former Middleweight Mixed Martial Artist and was Crush on American Gladiators. When she throws a kick or punch, you believe it. The fact that she's also quite beautiful is just icing on the cake.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this is a stylish little thriller with an impressive list of actors. Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Bill Paxton all appear in a thriller being released in January. I'm sure that's to do with the pull of Soderbergh. The fact that all of these big names are all playing supporting parts--and punching bags--to Gina Carano is also impressive.
Carano, while not likely to win any acting awards, does a pretty good job in the lead. This part doesn't require a huge amount of acting and she is a bit stiff in the longer talking scenes, but when it comes to the action she's terrific. One of the first scenes in the movie involves Gina having a conversation with Channing Tatum and you can see that she's already a better actor than he is, which may not be a fair way to judge her, because, let's be honest, who isn't a better actor than Channing Tatum?
The action is helped by Soderbergh's direction. Normally I like a director to stay back and deliver the story in as clean a way as possible, but the stylish direction and editing job actually enhances the action and the story. Perhaps to cover up for Gina's first time acting, many of the scenes are played in silence for an extended period, but instead of harming anything, it actually makes those scenes stand out more.
Although the action is the reason to watch, there is a story to go along with it. Carano plays Mallory Kane, a freelance operative working for a private contracting firm run by Kenneth, an ex-boyfriend of her's played by Ewan McGregor. His firm is hired by the US Government to help a Chinese dissident who has been kidnapped and is now being held in Barcelona. This assignment goes off without a hitch, but Mallory's next mission, which turns out to have a connection with the previous one, goes all wrong and Mallory finds herself hung out to dry without knowing who she can trust. To be honest, it's all a little convoluted, but that hardly matters because what it's really there for is to provide an excuse for Mallory to go on the run and kick some ass.
Presumably because of Carano's martial arts expertise, the fight scenes have a realistic feel to them. There doesn't appear to be any CGI or wires used. Soderbergh avoids using music during the fight scenes and you hear her and her opponent's heavy breathing, breaking glass and the inevitable thud of their bodies hitting the floor. Her fight with Michael Fassbender ends with his head trapped between her powerful thighs, which must create very mixed feeling from his character. About that scene Fassbender said in an interview, "Hey, I just stick my head where the director tells me."
The Wonder Woman movie has been stuck in development hell for years with many different actresses tied to the lead role. After watching this movie, I for one am in no doubts who should play the Amazon Princess. Slap the bracelets and tiara on her now!
I know it looks pleasurable, but...
I agree Scott. She is a perfect candidate to play the premiere female superhero. The film even makes the case when a police officer refers to her as "Wonder Woman." Her acting "stiff" would actually help, as Diana would seem uncomfortable in the real world.
Three notable things happen here. The first is Gina Carano and her ass kicking hot body, (real or fake). She runs over roof tops, climbs and jumps over objects. These are not done with distant shots. No doubt some stunt woman was employed, but you can plainly see she did much of her stunt work and action scenes.
The next is the cast. Nearly every character is played by a recognizable face. Did they save so much money on an unknown actress that they could afford all of theses leading men? My favorite of them is Michael Fassbender. He plays another agent whose every move makes you wonder if he is up to something.
The last thing is the writing. For being such a resourceful and experienced agent she falls for the ruse quite easily. I also have no clue why they set her up. We have Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor and Mathieu Kassovitz all scheming some such nonsense. It does not overly hurt the plot, but a simpler explanation would have certainly helped. If you do find yourself confused, distract your mind by picturing Carano in a Wonder Woman costume. Her strapless outfit will need some serious support.
Gina Carano kicks Channing Tatum's butt in Haywire.
Haywire has a great opening sequence. When Mallory and Aaron suddenly begin brutally beating the shit out of each other in that diner (see photo) the action kicks in and it never really lets up. Mallory's back story is then revealed in flashback until it catches up to the present about midway through. Sure it's all a bit convoluted but it's stylish as hell and features a very impressive supporting cast.
Having a female action star to root for gives it a slightly different flavor than your typical male dominated action-thriller. Soderbergh still relies on many familiar action tropes but it all feels original due entirely to the presence of Gina Carano. Yes her acting is a bit stiff at times but she more than makes up for it during the many action scenes. She's believably tough as nails and kicks nearly every one of her male costars butts at some point during the movie. The epic battle she has with Michael Fassbender in that hotel room surely ranks as one of the best fight scenes from any movie.
Soderbergh directs with a sure eye. Unlike many modern action films this one isn't hampered with thousands of quick cuts and/or shaky hand held camera work. Style wise it's a bit old fashioned. But gloriously so. It has some elements of film noir but it also seems completely contemporary simply by dint of featuring a woman in the leading role.
Normally I'm not a fan of Channing Tatum. I agree with Scott that he's severely lacking in the acting department. However, (Spoiler Alert) he does manage to pull off a decent death scene here. Although the lighting and makeup certainly help by giving him a deathly pallor. At any rate it works.
The joy of the movie is in watching this beautiful woman not only play the game with the big boys but beat them at it. Mallory is a bad ass movie character. She fights, shoots and drives like a man but is all woman at the same time. Carano would make a great Wonder Woman but why not bring Mallory Kane back for a sequel as well? Gina Carano has the potential to become the greatest female action star in history.
Photos © Copyright Relativity Media (2012)