Friday, August 15, 2014

Haywire

"Girls can't fight!" read a typically obtuse posting on the Internet Movie Database's site.  It was for the recent TOTAL RECALL, one of several ill-advised remakes that nonetheless featured the skills of costars Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel, doubtless the result of many hours of stage combat and perhaps even tactical training. It came off fairly convincingly.

Mixed martial arts champ Gina Carano, the lead in 2012's HAYWIRE, really can fight. She placed third in worldwide MMA competition. She's the right choice to play ex-Marine Mallory Kane, hired operative for a mysterious organization with government ties. She gets to kick a lot of ass. Take that, pinhead imdb poster!

But can she act? In a glossed up B movie like this, much can be forgiven in that department. Especially when you're able to beat the tar out your male co-stars. Such as that opening scene, when she repeatedly slams Channing Tatum's head to the floor with her knees. Or when she takes on a double-crosser played by Michael Fassbender, practically destroying an entire hotel room. An ex-boyfriend/co-operative played by Ewan McGregor will also feel the wrath, after she learns she has been deemed dispensable. And when her father (Bill Paxton) is threatened, well, you don't really need any Harold Pinter dialogue to tell that tale.

The spy plotting in HAYWIRE is distressingly routine. Lem Dobb's script offers nothing new, or even a unique take on the events, but genre fans are usually pretty undemanding. The movie is like many others you could find on Cinemax after eleven P.M., though without the gratuitous nudity and sex. That will be bad news for certain viewers; Carano is very attractive. Where is Andy Sidaris when you need him?

Instead we have Steven Soderbergh in the director's chair, a bit surprising. Was he trying to work in as many genres as he could before his recent retirement? Like Alan Parker before him? The articles I've read found Soderbergh explaining that he was weary of studio politics and just felt he had run out of stories he wanted to tell. One piece quotes Matt Damon as saying that the director felt he was more of a stylist than a storyteller.  I don't disagree. When Soderbergh was focused he created some unique cinema, such as his far more ambitious previous collaboration with Dobbs, 1999's THE LIMEY.

But aside from some brain neutral entertainment, HAYWIRE does boast a refreshingly unglamorous heroine whose hair actually doesn't stay in place after a scuffle. Carano gives the movie some cred, some that might be lacking if say, Angelina Jolie had been cast. And that final scene, the one where Mallory finally confronts another two face played by Antonio Banderas, should leave you with a wry grin.

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