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Gina Carano in 'Haywire'

I have seen the first superhero movie of 2012 and it is Steven Soderbergh's Haywire. It stars the Mixed Martial Arts champion/future household name Gina Carano. It's the greatest belated Christmas gift in years.

To those more attuned to the genre, however, the martial arts/reconnaissance/weapons expert Black Widow would be a more appropriate reference point than the mystical Amazon half-Goddess Wonder Woman. In the last reel she's even got the costume down (mixed in with a little Tura Satana from Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill for good measure.)

Haywire is, by no stretch, an intellectual night out at the cinema. It is yet another example of looking at a genre and thinking "what would a really tight, well-crafted version of that film look like?" What Soderbergh did for disaster movies with Contagion he does for late night cable action pictures with Haywire.

It's a little odd, because the picture begins with what I call the "Soderbergh hum" of saturated, cold video (it always takes a few minutes to adjust the eye) and it feels awkward against the very 1970s cop show music on the soundtrack. Then the first Gina Carano beatdown comes and you realize why this movie exists.

Carano, a Sherman tank of a woman who still maintains an air of voluptuous femininity, is the most exciting new action star to come on the scene since Jackie Chan. Yeah, I know what I just said and I stand by it.

There have been a few attempts to bring champions of the Mixed Martial Arts world to cinema. Randy Coture and Redbel and Warrior haven't quite done it. Haywire makes it happen. Carano chokes a man with her thighs, springs off of walls, jumps out of high windows, hides in shadows and bashes heads against dinner tables. She'll also just come at you like a bull with plenty of warning and there's still no chance of survival. She's Liam Neeson from Taken but smart and gorgeous and often wearing tight clothes. Yes, you may as well just line up at the box office now.

There's a fight scene between her and Michael Fassbender in a hotel room that's up there in shock value with the sunglasses fight from They Live and Dan Dority vs. Captain Turner in Season Three Deadwood. (It was actually inspired by a Rod Taylor fight from the cult film Darker Than Amber.)

Okay, so what about the story? Well, it's the same old thing (they sold me out! now they must pay!) but Soderbergh is too smart for that. He's perfected the art of showing you just 20% of what normal movies do to orient you in terms of backstory. It makes everything seem more interesting when you have to piece it together yourself. Good casting, like Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Mathieu Kassovitz, Antonio Banderas and Antoio Banderas' awesome beard go a long way to helping you fill in the blanks.

What Haywire does, and does so well, is take a stylized-but-not-revoultionary approach to action cinema and floor it. Can Gina Carano act? Well. . . there's no evidence of that so far. But can Jason Statham? In a perfect world Carano starts pumping out outrageous action movies every six months – because from where I'm standing she's a lot easier on the eye than Statham, or John Cena, or Van Damme or any of those other guys. And she can probably kick all of their asses.
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. World/Independent Film
  4. Independent Film
  5. Independent and World Films, Winter 2012
  6. Haywire - A Review of Steven Soderbergh's Haywire

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