Tuesday 7 February 2012
Gina Carano, real life MMA star, plays Mallory Kane, a gritty, balls-to-the-wall former Marine who now works for a private black ops firm. Before I get into the movie, let me just give props because Gina actually looks the part. This is no uber-thin sex kitten who would be KO'd in one punch. Nor is she wearing a barely there outfit and high heeled fuck-me boots, while she flips two hundred pound guys. She is a muscular babe with proper hiking boots, comfortable clothes and an alertness of body that only comes from being an athlete. There are no magical harnesses and gymnastics for this girl, either. She is hardcore, disciplined fighter all the way and that is what makes her believable as Mallory.
The film opens essentially in the middle, an upstate New York diner in the dead of winter. Mal cases the joint. She (and we) know they're coming for her, but she's not going to roll belly up like some beta bitch. No way. She enters, chooses her space, then calmly orders tea. The tension ramps up instantly.
Channing Tatum arrives as fellow operative, Aaron. He exudes a deceptive, laconic charm, but he's all steel. He's been sent to retrieve Mallory and he has no qualms about going through her to do it. My girl takes him out with a bit of surprise help from a local boy, Scott. It was so refrshing to see a young guy in the typical female aid role. Michael Angarano is equal parts good kid, scared vic and smart ass as Scott.
Something is not right from the start. Mal knows that Pauly is playing her, but she doesn't know why until she uncovers the body of her Barcelona assignment with a nice little piece of evidence framing her. It is soon on like the fireworks at Navy Pier. The hotel fight scene between Gina and Fassbender is quick, brutal and terrifyingly intense. There are no orchestrated roundhouse kicks and karate chops. Hell to the no. This is a smashed glass, flat screen TV demolishing, knock-down, tooth and claw fight. Which ends with Gina crushing Fassbender's throat between her thighs. Normally I object to this move. However, this was a far cry from the sexy Scarlett Johansson Thigh Master takedown from Iron Man 2. Michael's face is purple, his tongue sticks out and he thrashes around like a harpooned swordfish on a boatdeck.
The rest of the cast is just as outstanding. In another series of interspersed scenes, we meet the orchestrators of the Barcelona job, Coblentz, played with Gordon Gecko-esque precision by the awesome Michael Douglas, and Rodrigo, a suave Spanish official portrayed by Antonio Banderas with a ruthless, king cobra smile. These two are just wicked. Bill Paxton stars as Mal's pops, John. He's smart, concerned and all the things you want in a tough dad.
The plot while a bit thin, has some meat to it. The non-linear time lends it a bit more complexity, but not much. There's the standard double agent playing both ends to smoke out a traitor. You had your stock characters, too, like the cops. Who were typical chauvinist pigs, dismissing every syllable Mallory utters with egregious disdain. Of course they meet a violent end.
One of my favorite things about this movie? There are no, I repeat no, scantily clad, nude or semi nude scenes from Gina. Well, maybe if you count the robe after the shower, but then it was not really anything. No shower scene, though. Only one bikini shot at the end of some silly vampette. However, Steven did give those of us who love men, a nice shot of Michael Fassbender. He comes out in nothing but a towel. Hell yeah, fist bumps Steven! Some payback for all those trite, candy cane female nude scenes from other action flicks. I hate it when women take off their clothes in a movie for no plausible reason. Like oops, the bad guys come just as they step out of the shower and they have to go on the lam in nothing but a towel.
Soderbergh took the action movie and flipped it in my opinion. He made this whole film feel realistic, as if it could happen right in front of you at any given moment. From the intimate camera work to the fact that Mallory did not have to fight off a coterie of behemoths that would never, ever blend into the background, it all feels authentic. Even the gun battles were not too outlandish. And the cops really came, something that never happens in a Bruce Willis movie unless he is a cop.
Another impressive point for Steven's direction is the end when Mallory gets her man. There's no useless "gotcha asshole" talk, she just flies right at him and starts the beatdown. He also rifs on that typical macho arm wound scene when Mallory escapes the diner in Scott's car. She drives with a bullet wound to her arm while she instructs the kid on how to patch her up. Boo-yah!
I have to point out that people have complained about the acting from Gina, that she's wooden and doesn't have a lot of range. Excuse me, do we expect that shit from Bruce or Arnold? Hell freakin no! So why hold her up to that? She was perfect as far as I was concerned. This is about a ballsy badass getting revenge for being set up. No call for exquisite subtlety. I certainly hope Mallory will be coming back in a sequel. She is a stellar heroine for little girls and women everywhere, including my friend's daughter, little G, who wants this movie for her birthday. And you know Auntie Mel will deliver.
Haywire is an edgy, in-your-face action film all the way. I will end with a fave quote from McGregor's Kenneth "You shouldn't think of her as being a woman. That would be a mistake."