|Run, Forrest, run!|
"You shouldn't think of her as a woman. That would be a mistake" is the way Ewan McGregor sweet talks the freelance spy Michael Fassbender into double-crossing the force of nature, Gina Carano. Yet I couldn't ignore the fact that Gina Carano was a no nonsense, ass-kicking action heroine, and it had nothing to do with her body (well...90% not to do with her body). It's no secret that I have a soft spot for badass chicks, so when I saw the trailer for Haywire, I prayed to Chuck Norris that it would deliver. And, oh. It motherfucking delivered. And then some. Haywire was not only a movie about a badass woman...it was just a badass movie all around. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) did the slightly-too-slow building espionage thriller (thriller? Can I even call it a thriller when the thrill took so long?), Drive (2011) did artsy action film (action film? Can I even call it an action film when the majority of the action happened in the first five minutes?), and while both were awesome, neither really stabbed me in the heart and sunk it in to the hilt for me. Haywire was neither too hot nor too cold--it was just as badass as it needed to be.
|Being a BAMF.|
Let's start with the beating, bloody heart of it: Gina Carano. Gina Carano is an action heroine with a gritty integrity that we haven't seen since the Bruce Lees and the Arnold Schwarzeneggers and the Jean-Claude Van Dammes of the 70s and 80s. She's a mixed martial arts fighter first, an actor second. Which means, in short, that she's not your stick figure action hero woman--this woman has enough meat and muscle on her to actually look the part. You would not want to get in a bar fight with her. Up until Haywire, she'd only been in a handful of tv movies, but she'd mainly been focusing all of her energies on kicking ass. And it pays off. Eat your heart out, Zoe Bell. Granted, the role of hardass tough guy doesn't quite need a woman with a large acting range. But who ever complained that Arnold just didn't bring enough tears into Predator (1987)? The beauty of the role is that Gina Carano is an actress with no baggage and she slips into Mallory's skin seamlessly and effortlessly.
Speaking of Mallory. One of the great things about Mallory is that, yes, she is a ruthless, professional spy. But she isn't James Bond. She doesn't blindly throw herself out of a window without any idea of where it might lead. Instead, she has moments where she'll be mid-action and she'll actually stop for a couple seconds just to look around her, take in her situation, and plot her next move. It just so happens that her next move might include throwing herself out a window...but she knows where she'll land. She's impulsive, but she's well-trained, and she easily adapts to wiggle out of every corner she gets boxed into.
As for her wiggling, the fight scenes were fantastic. Really. Did I mention this woman kicks fucking ass? The action is just brilliant. The best part about it is that it's stripped down naked. We don't get slow motion fist-collisions, we don't get that shaky camera that leaves you trying to figure out who hit what. They barely even bother with quick-cuts into different camera angles. Instead, they keep us exactly where we need to be--in the middle of the action. Right alongside Mallory. This isn't to say Steven Soderbergh doesn't have a few tricks up his sleeve. The way he filmed each action sequence was definitely unique, but in a nice, subtle way. Example, one of the most tense fight scenes happens on a beach where most of the hard physical blows are drowned out under the sound of the water breaking on the shore. So yes, there is a degree of artsy aesthetics to this movie, but not so much that it ever takes away from what the movie is at its core--a heart-pounding, violence laden action movie.
|Can haz be in Fassbender's shoes?|
Even Mallory's male posse fails to distract from the action of the movie. In any other female action hero flick, there's almost always the handsome hunk who leads us astray with a dull and lifeless plot line that we only put up with so we can see the female lead take off her clothes. They do it in male lead action movies too, with a tedious and ill conceived romantic plot aimed to heighten the stakes or some bullshit. My rule? If I wanted to watch romance, I would've let my better half pick the movie tonight. And with a movie like Haywire, filled to the teeth with tasty hunks of man flesh, it's tempting to throw in the cheap romantic subplot. And Haywire isn't entirely off the hook in this regard. But when it's done, it's done. It's subtle, it's tasteful, and (thank god) short lived. And considering the amount of sexual chemistry between the two (or should I say lack thereof), it might as well be classified more as a bromance than any real romance. There is no real sexual distraction in this movie. Even during the bit where Mallory and Michael Fassbender pretend to be arm candy in the classic newlyweds play, there is no genuine sexual chemistry. Are there a good couple sexual plays during the fight scene? She wraps her thighs around his throat, you fill in the blanks. But between the characters themselves? They're both exceedingly professional and don't even bother with batting eyes at each other. Which tells us something about Mallory--papa didn't raise no foo'.
I don't think I need to tell you that all the other actors hold their own. I mean, c'mon. Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender. They have it written in their contracts that they must be badass at all times. The only one I was a little worried was Channing Tatum since I know nothing about him except that he made a bunch of bad movies geared to 14 year old girls with friendship bracelets, but he held his own with the rest of them. Everyone delivered. And they all (more or less) did their own fight scenes. Rock the fuck on.
It's a simple, clear cut, well done action movie. The acting is great. The exposition is great. The pacing is great. Honestly, my only complaint about Haywire was that there wasn't enough of it. Haywire II, anyone? I've even got a title for you: Haywire II: Revenge Of The Moose. You know you want it.