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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: Haywire

PICK OF THE WEEK: NEW

HAYWIRE  (Also Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Three Stars

U.S.: Steven Soderbergh, 2012 (Lionsgate)

Director Steven Soderbergh is a jack-of-all-trades (steve-of-all-trades?), who, in his new movie Haywire, also does his own cinematography (billed as Peter Andrews) and his own editing — and does them all, as we know, very well. Gina Carano is a Jill-of-one-trade, a mixed martial arts champion here branching out into acting and movie superstardom (in no particular order). Ms. Carano does her own fighting and chases and stunts — like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee, and almost as well.

The two of them join forces here in Mayhem — excuse me, Haywire — which is a standard, unsurprising, but very well done mix of martial arts ass-kicker and nightmare thriller, written by Lem Dobbs without a trace of personal involvement — unless he has martial arts obsessions we don‘t know about. Dobbs previously collaborated with Soderbergh on the moody black-and-white sort-of-bio Kafka and on The Limey, one of my favorite neo-noirs, and Dobbs may be trying to show his versatility too — traveling all the way from his first Soderbergh movie, an obscure literary art film, to this hell-breaking-loose actioner, where one wouldn‘t guess that he was ever personally involved with any books, let alone Kafka‘s.

Carano plays Mallory Kane, an ex- U.S. Marine and daughter of another ex-U.S. Marine named John Kane, played (well, of course) by Bill Paxton. When we first meet Mallory, in a New York diner, she’s kicking the crap out of Channing Tatum (as Aaron), and she goes on in the course of the film to kick the crap out off, or in some way verbally intimidate or ball-bust, a gallery (guyery?) that includes, or might include, Michael Fassbender (as Paul), Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor (as her bosses, Coblenz and Kenneth), Antonio Banderas (as Rodrigo), Mathieu Kassovitz (as Studer) and various others — while relating the entire misadventure to Michael Angarano (as Scott), while they speed away from the diner in Scott‘s car, westbound.

The various other locations for all this, present to past and back again, include Barcelona, Dublin and New Mexico. And they have one constant: Wherever they are, wherever Mallory is, sooner or later somebody will kick the crap out of somebody else, and the kicker is usually Gina Carano, while the kickee is usually male and a high-salaried movie star, playing some sort of sleazebag. All of this is smothered in Bourne-Again intrigue and double-dealing and paranoia. But since we know Gina is doing her own stunts (and her own kicking) it gives you pause. Is this the price of stardom? What happens to Gina 20 years from now? V8 commercials?

Steven Soderbergh is smooth, and he’s never smoother than when he’s engaged in some big crime thriller — whether it’s one of the Oceans or something brainier and more realistic, like Traffic. I had mixed feelings about Haywire, though. I liked it okay, I guess. But I should have liked it more, since it’s the same type of rock-’em-sock-’em wish-fulfiller as The Limey — a classy Soderbergh actioner where a somewhat effete-looking British oldster (Terence Stamp, or should we call him Terrence Stomp) surprises the bad guys by kicking the stuffings out of them.

That’s the deal with Gina Carano, and maybe it will make her a superstar. But, though I’m hip to the charms of stoicism in action movies, I thought Ms. C.  needed to give a little more, and show a little more verbal and emotional style than she does here. As for the rest of the cast, they have my condolences. Guys, what can I say? It’s one thing to be upstaged by a newcomer; it’s another to be annihilated.

Extras: Featurettes; Trailers.

 

 

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“We don’t defy the laws of physics: There are no flying men or cars in this movie. So it made sense to do it old-school: real vehicles and real human beings in the desert. We shot the movie more or less in continuity, because the cars and the characters get really banged up along the way. The biggest benefit of digital technology for me was that the cameras were smaller and much more agile, so you could put them anywhere. We also spent a huge amount of time on spatial awareness—making sure the viewer could follow the action and understand what was happening. There has to be a strong causal connection from one shot to the next, just the same way that in music, there has to be a connection from one note to the next. Otherwise it’s just noise. Too often, if you just cram a lot of stuff into the frame, you get the illusion of a fast pace. But there’s no coherence. It doesn’t flow. It comes off as headbanging music, and it can be exhausting. We storyboarded the movie before we had a script: We had 3,500 boards, which helps the cast and crew understand how everything is going to fit together. Movies are getting faster and faster. The Road Warrior had 1,200 cuts. This one has 2,700 cuts. You have to treat it like a symphony.”
~ George Miller

“I was having issues with my script for It’s All About Love, so I called Ingmar Bergman and we ended up talking about everything but the script. He said, “Well, Festen is a masterpiece, so what are you going to do now?” At that point, I had not decided if I was going to make It’s All About Love, so I answered, “Hmmm, I don’t know. Maybe this, maybe that.” There was just a long pause, and then he said, “You’re fucked.” I said, “Well, how can you know?” “Well, Thomas, you always have to decide your next movie before the movie you’re doing presently opens.” And I said, “Why is that?” “Well, two things can happen. One thing is that you fail, and then you’ll feel scared and humiliated. It’ll get into your head. Second, and even worse, you have success, and then you’ll want more of it, or you’ll want to maintain it. But if you decide on your next film while you’re in the middle of editing, it becomes a very nonchalant choice. And then it’s shorter from the heart to the hand.”
~ Thomas Vinterberg

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