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.