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January 25, 2012


Haywire! (Which deserves an exclamation point)

Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor in Haywire

Haywire is not a complicated movie, and it would be silly for me to try to fabricate a complex analysis of a movie whose primary pleasure is watching Gina Carano beat the daylights out of her co-stars. Hopefully others will share their reactions to the movie and thoughts about how it fits into Soderbergh's large and ever-growing assembly of genre movies.

First: it's a genre movie. There are aspects of the plot that don't 100% hang together (like, what exactly is the business of Mr. Studer, the evil French-Irish businessman who will kill people to protect his industry? Does it matter? Of course not!) and the part of the plot that does matter can easily be described in one sentence. Some critics saw this as a sign of the movie's flimsiness; I see it as a sign that we should look elsewhere for the thing that makes the movie good.

Which is this: watching Gina Carano and her incredible athleticism and physical confidence on screen. The fight scenes are great, of course (especially the brutal hotel room sequence with Michael Fassbender that's in the trailer--they really look like they're laying into each other) but my favorite scene might have been Gina Carano evading the people chasing her around Dublin. She nimbly hauls herself up drain pipes and ledges and leaps across rooftops with amazing muscular grace. Watching Gina Carano solve physical problems within a Steven Soderbergh movie means that there's just enough narrative and stylistic substance to make Haywire a fun movie, but it might not be categorically better than watching her destroy her opponent in an MMA cage.

One of my favorite lines in the movie involves two men plotting to kill Gina Carano. The intended assassin expresses some hesitation, saying "I've never done a woman before." "You shouldn't think of her as a woman," replies the other man. "That would be a mistake." Maybe it doesn't say very good things about the variety of roles for women that it's still such a pleasurable novelty to see a physically powerful woman utterly dominate her male co-stars in an action movie. But, hey, it is. I'll take it.

As for the formal stuff, I liked the out of order scenes and some of the non-linear stuff that Soderbergh is so good at. I wish some of the fight scenes had been just a little better lit (especially the scene at Gina Carano's dad's house) and I could have done with even longer shots and fewer cuts, to really let the audience watch the fights. But I was grateful to see as much as we did in the action sequences, without all that Greengrass-style shaky cam and edits that are so fast they seem intentionally disorienting.

David Holmes' soundtrack was super cool in a very Out of Sight/The Limey kind of way.

Other reactions?

categories: Celebrities, Movies, Women
posted by amy at 9:34 AM | #

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I feel like the girl-who-kicks-guys-asses has become an action-movie cliche at this point (UnderworldResidentEvilKillBillAeonFluxaaaaaackSuckerPunch). But Haywire does a nice job of making a *plausible* female action hero. Part of that---okay, much of that---has to do with knowing Carano's offscreen identity, but that aside, she *runs* like a real athlete, rather than someone who's just toned. I thought the chase scenes were almost as good as the fight scenes for just that reason---she has the kind of potent kinetic comfort that I think you can only get by being unbothered by punches to the face.

It's her ability to take a punch, rather than throw one, that really makes her character unique among female action heroes---that very first face-smack in the diner establishes that she's going to take hits like a male action hero, which gives the fights extra intensity (and makes her a plausible ass-kicker). It helps that the fight choreography makes it look like the combatants are actually trying to take each other out rather than do synchronized swimming---there's none of that faux-sword-fighting bullcrap where everyone trades high-angle punches for five minutes before aiming for anyone's midsection.

The nonlinear stuff was fun, although the narration to the random dude in the car was even more unmotivated than most bits (wait, why is she telling Dopey Civilian everything about her secret agent work again?). And I do wish they'd spent just a little more time making the story add up, or else making it clearer to us that it shouldn't---if I really am not supposed to care about the background, why have all that time with Michael Douglas talking to Ewan McGregor?

But like you say, we're not here for plot, we're here for kicking ass, and that was done with aplomb. Definitely minor Soderbergh, even among the genre films---it's nowhere near as assured and memorable as Out of Sight or Oceans Eleven---but not actively terrible, which puts it way ahead of a whole lot of movies.

Posted by: That Fuzzy Bastard at January 25, 2012 8:16 PM

It's totally true that the ass-kicking woman has become an action movie cliche, but the difference between all those other stars and Gina Carano is that she's a credible ass-kicker. I like your point that she can not only deliver a punch, she can TAKE a punch.

My favorite recent post about this trend of annoyingly unconvincing female action stars was in New York mag over the summer: "Female Action Stars Have Gotten Too Skinny To Throw A Believable Punch".


Posted by: amy at January 25, 2012 9:57 PM

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