MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on DVDs: Haywire


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 now have a situation where audiences very often prefer commercial trash to Bergman’s Persona or Bresson’s L’Argent. Professionals find themselves shrugging, and predicting that serious, significant works will have no success with the general public. What is the explanation? Decline of taste or impoverishment of repertoire? Neither and both. It is simply that cinema now exists, and is evolving, under new conditions. That total, enthralling impression which once overwhelmed the audiences of the 1930s was explained by the universal delight of those who were witnessing and rejoicing over the birth of a new art form, which furthermore had recently acquired sound. By the very fact of its existence this new art, which displayed a new kind of wholeness, a new kind of image, and revealed hitherto unexplored areas of reality, could not but astound its audiences and turn them into passionate enthusiasts.

Less than twenty years now separate us from the twenty-first century. In the course of its existence, through its peaks and troughs, cinema has travelled a long and tortuous path. The relationship that has grown up between artistic films and the commercial cinema is not an easy one, and the gulf between the two becomes wider every day. Nonetheless, films are being made all the time that are undoubtedly landmarks in the history of cinema. Audiences have become more discerning in their attitude to films. Cinema as such long ago ceased to amaze them as a new and original phenomenon; and at the same time it is expected to answer a far wider range of individual needs. Audiences have developed their likes and dislikes. That means that the filmmaker in turn has an audience that is constant, his own circle. Divergence of taste on the part of audiences can be extreme, and this is in no way regrettable or alarming; the fact that people have their own aesthetic criteria indicates a growth of self-awareness.

Directors are going deeper into the areas which concern them. There are faithful audiences and favorite directors, so that there is no question of thinking in terms of unqualified success with the public—that is, if one is talking about cinema not as commercial entertainment but as art. Indeed, mass popularity suggests what is known as mass culture, and not art.”
~ Andrei Tarkovsky, “Sculpting In Time”

“People seem to be watching [fewer] movies, which I think is a mistake on people’s parts, and they seem to be making more of them, which I think is okay. Some of these movies are very good. When you look at the quality of Sundance movies right now, they are a lot better than they were when I was a kid. I do think that there have been improvements artistically, but it’s tough. We’ve got a system that’s built for less movies in terms of how many curatorial standard-bearers we have in the states. It’s time for us to expand our ideas of where we find our great films in America, but that said, it’s a real hustle. I’m so happy that Factory 25 exists. If it didn’t exist, there would be so many movies that wouldn’t ever get distributed because Matt Grady is the only person who has seen the commercial potential in them. He’s preserving a very special moment in independent film history that the commercial system is not going to be preserving. He’s figuring out how to make enough money on it to save these films and get them onto people’s shelves.”
~ Homemakers‘ Colin Healey On Indie Distribution