So once again we have survived.

Haywire

tn_haywireBSteven Soderbergh’s take on an action/spy thriller – built around “The Face of Women’s MMA” Gina Carano after he saw her on Strikeforce while flipping channels around – lives up to my high expectations. It’s written by Lem Dobbs and it’s like the kid sister of THE LIMEY, mixing the style of that Soderbergh classic with kind of a more upbeat ex-Marine-badass-operative-betrayed-and-on-the-run type of story. It has THE LIMEY’s sense of quiet, deliberate pace and dread and also its dry you-just-fucked-with-the-wrong-person type of humor. Of course, professional fighter Carano has different strengths as a performer than Terence Stamp does, so her movie has less emotion and more punching, kicking, choking, armbars, heads broken through furniture, foot chases, etc. Gina’s not gonna mourn the loss of the daughter she never knew, and Terence isn’t gonna climb up onto a roof. In my opinion. And it’s great to have both of them.

Carano (if you haven’t seen her real fights maybe you saw her cameo in BLOOD AND BONE) plays Mallory Kane, an experienced operative for a private contractor who does covert missions rescuing hostages and shit like that. She begins the movie having, you know, like… a disagreement with her colleague Channing Tatum (FIGHTING), and then she flashes back through the story of how she got doublecrossed as she hauls ass in a commandeered vehicle, headed to settle the score with her boss/ex-boyfriend (Ewan McGregor).

mp_haywireThe other agents and bosses include Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Mathieu Kassovitz. The fights are choreographed by J.J. Perry (UNDISPUTED II) and are the clear highlight of the movie. We’re seeing alot of MMA-inspired submission holds in action movies these days, but not usually with this kind of blunt efficiency. It almost reminds me of seeing Seagal’s early movies the first time because the fights are so quick and dirty and the hits look and sound so hard. You know I love elaborate, stylized Shaw Brothers type numbers. This is the opposite of that, but it’s another great approach. These characters are very professional. It always seems like they really are trying to subdue their opponent as quickly as possible, not trying to show off. No time for sadism or to stop and say a line of dialogue. The lack of music and the not-too-exaggerated sound effects also add to the sense of realism. Sometimes I felt like an eyewitness. Uh, hey guys… break it up?

Mallory’s also Seagal-esque in her total domination of foes (all male), but she’s not as indestructible. She tends to get knocked around at first, which makes it great when there are witnesses. It’s like, oh no, look at this fuckin woman beater, he’s gonna seriously hur– oh, shit. What is she doing to him? She’s not quite The Terminator. She sports a number of bruises and cuts throughout the movie.

Soderbergh, thank God, agrees with us about the sad state of action filmatism. I’m happy to report that he lives up to his word, taking advantage of Carano’s skills by not shooting too close up and by doing lots of long takes. And he mostly avoid handheld cameras. Check out this behind the scenes photo where you can glimpse some sort of crazy next-gen technology they’re using that actually holds the camera for them:

haywire_camera
Can you believe that!? I think it’s used to move the camera smoothly or possibly to hold it still and, like, point it at stuff. Kinda hard to wrap your mind around. It’ll be interesting to see if other directors decide to start using this technology. I have also heard that tripods have been invented. (not verified)

I was writing somewhere else about how crazy it is that Soderbergh wanting to shoot the fights clearly is a major selling point mentioned in all the interviews, articles and reviews. I believe as recently as 10 years ago this would’ve seemed ridiculous to even mention. At that time it would be considered basic filmatistic competence, now it’s rare enough that it’s considered a novelty. Still, I think these fights would stand out even if we were in a better era for action movies. It’s true that they’re refreshingly against the grain, but they’re also just plain good.

As long as I’m using Seagalogical comparisons I should say that this is most like the Golden Era Seagal works, where the action is more street-level violence, hand-to-hand scuffles, and less guns, car stunts or CGI. They hired Carano because of her Muay Thai and her MMA, so it would be stupid to waste a bunch of time acting like she’s a champion sharpshooter. But she is on the run so they do give her a couple really exciting foot and car chases, the car ones mainly shot from inside, reminding me of parts I loved in CHILDREN OF MEN, THE DRIVER and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION. You feel like if she crashes you’re going through the windshield.

One little detail I noticed that illustrates Soderbergh’s respect for clear filmatism is during a foot chase. The camera is looking down on Mallory running. There’s a traffic light or something hanging between us and the street, but as Mallory turns she arcs right around it so that our view of her is never blocked. Almost as if they, like, planned the shot in advance.

I think all the fights are done without music, but alot of the other scenes are heavily score driven, another great one by David Holmes. It’s reminiscent of OUT OF SIGHT with its driving basslines, super-tight drums and eerie electric pianos, but with horns in more of a Lalo Schifrin style. Very GET CARTER with maybe a drop or two of James Bond.

I guess some people have claimed that Carano’s acting is weak. I completely disagree, I didn’t notice a single poor line delivery or anything like that. But even if she wasn’t as good I think that complaints like that are missing the entire reason for this movie to exist. By casting a fighter to act Soderbergh is offering an alternative to the usual practice of casting an actor to fight. Compare Carano in HAYWIRE to Angelina Jolie – an Academy Award winning (and 2-time SAG winning, and 3-time Golden Globe winning) actress who I like – playing a very similar character in SALT. Jolie’s fine in the movie, but does she carry herself as convincingly as a woman who knows how to handle herself in a fight, in a double-cross, in a chase? Does she look like she’s the one doing the fighting and running and jumping? Does she move on screen in ways that are as interesting, as badass? Of course not. If somebody prefers the Academy Award winning actor’s version of this character it’s a free country but still, you gotta be fuckin kidding me. If Carano’s acting was weak it would be worth the sacrifice.

I mean, I don’t think Tony Jaa’s a very good actor, but I bet his version of ONG BAK is better than the version with, say, Viggo Mortensen would be. Although I would definitely watch that. Actually, maybe that’s a bad example. You know what, there’s room for both. Let’s have both.

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal liked HAYWIRE, but in his final paragraph as he compliments Carano for being “very much at home in a strong cast” he writes, “It remains to be seen whether Ms. Carano’s star presence will take her beyond action roles, but she’s certainly appealing in this one…” I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, but it’s a funny attitude that people have, as if for some reason Carano would’ve done this movie in hopes of eventually getting enough experience to be in a period drama or a romantic comedy or something. Like you do a genre movie as an audition for “real” movies “beyond action roles.” The truth is it’s usually the other way around. You do an amazing dramatic performance and then you’re allowed to play a super hero or super villain (see: Eric Bana, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hardy, etc.) In fact, most of the respected supporting cast here had to do years of “beyond action roles” before they would ever be cast in something like this.

But I’m sure Morgenstern would agree that it would be a waste of Carano’s gifts if she tried to do non-fighting roles. At least wait until your body’s getting frail, like Jackie Chan.

I like most of Soderbergh’s movies, and even the ones I don’t love are almost always an admirable attempt at something interesting. Who else can do both an upbeat studio movie starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts, and a micro-budget partially improvised experiment starring a lady he found working at a KFC? And seem to be passionate about both? He’s the only one. I love his broad range of interests, but of course my favorite movies by him are the ones where he tries to combine his commercial entertainer instincts with his thoughtful artist ones. My favorite from him is still the one that balances those the best, OUT OF SIGHT. It manages to be broadly entertaining, funny, romantic and joyful, but also a little bit mournful and contemplative. Like Elmore Leonard.

I think HAYWIRE is aimed for that same balance, but tips closer to THE LIMEY and what I consider Arthouse Badass. I’d like to think it could win over a wide audience like DRIVE did, but it didn’t seem to work on the middle aged couple who talked through pretty much the entire movie, or the two little kids that some lady brought. (The kids were quieter than the adults, but afterwards one reported “I didn’t like that movie that much.”) I figure they might not like the way both story and character are more implied and referred to than spelled out. In the opening we don’t really know what they’re talking about, as the events happen they’re a little confusing, eventually the explanation is pretty simple. But it’s kind of like the “Rabbit’s Foot” in MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE 3: it doesn’t really matter that much specifically why they’re after her. It just matters that she finds out. And hopefully beats some dudes up.

Same goes for the character of Mallory Kane. I mean, you know I would enjoy it if there was a “Just How Badass Is She?” line in here somewhere. But I like that they don’t waste our time with some dumb backstory. Tatum tries to guess one, but (like the one the Joker tells in DARK KNIGHT) it’s probly bullshit. If you need one, just make some shit up, it would’ve been like 2 or 3 lines of dialogue and you would’ve been happy. “You might think I joined the service because of my dad. The truth is, he was never there for me. Always off fighting some battle, even after he came home. I got into alot of trouble. Burglary, car theft. Eventually I took it too far, almost got killed, got locked up instead. There were two ways I could’ve gotten another chance: from Jesus, or from The Marines. I chose the Marines.”

Blah blah blah, why do we need to know that? We know Mallory Kane through what she knows: how to avoid being tracked, where to hide, when to surrender, how to relate to cops. We know she was in the Marines, and isn’t anymore. We see what her dad does, what he’s willing to do for her, and also the look on his face when he sees what she does. But even that’s pretty ambiguous – I read a little bit of fear, and then a little pride, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

Actually the father-daughter relationship is one thing that’s similar to OUT OF SIGHT, where Karen Sisco’s ex-cop dad seems to be her best friend. But Bill Paxton’s alot younger than Dennis Farina, or Terence Stamp. Man, we’re getting old. Game over, man.

Now that I think about it I don’t remember any explosions in the movie. That’s weird. Maybe that’s why they don’t like it. Explosions are important. There’s also a major sequence early on that’s done kind of like a music video, with people talking but we don’t hear it. Nothing too challenging but you know how people are. Sometimes they’re disappointed if they don’t get exactly what they expected, exactly what they got last time. Do something even slightly off-kilter and you might get sued.

I don’t think it’s as extreme as what happened with THE AMERICAN, but based on the Rotten Tomatoes computer machine HAYWIRE seems to be well liked by critics and not liked by “audiences.” Therefore I’m afraid I shouldn’t dream about the Mallory Kane series of movies that should so obviously happen. Soderbergh has said he plans to retire soon, and also that he did everything he wanted to do in an action movie with this one and can’t see himself doing another one unless he thought of something new. But I think it would be great if he stayed on as a producer and helped other cool directors to take the character in different (but still clearly photographed) directions.

I mean if he really wanted a WRATH OF KANE or a LONG LIVE THE KANE I’m sure he could do it DTV if he had to. That wouldn’t be that much different from what he did with BUBBLE and THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, which were released on DVD the same day as theaters.

Oh well, I’m happy we at least got this one. That alone is a miracle. It’s just so random that he happened to see Gina Carano on TV and then remembered her when his version of MONEYBALL fell apart and he kinda felt like doing a spy movie. If Soderbergh DVRd or Hulued everything he wouldn’t even have known who she was to make a movie about her. Thank you, TVs and remote controls. I owe you one.

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(Note: I think this is the fight Soderbergh saw, or at least it’s the one she’d just had before he met her. She didn’t want to go because she still had a black eye.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 at 1:01 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

88 Responses to “Haywire”

  1. Really glad to hear you liked this as much as I did. I’m frankly baffled by the negative audience reactions on this one, I think it’s flat out an outstanding genre movie. It’s weird too, because of the two, I would think Drive would alienate more people, Haywire definitely has more action, doesn’t waste any time, is closer in approach and tone to what audiences would expect. But it seems to be the other way around, if the D+ cinemascore is anything to judge by. Man, I hate general audiences, why do their tastes have to be so shitty and narrow.

    Also have to say I freaking LOVE the soundtrack in this, so groovy and upbeat, and totally not what you’d expect for a modern spy movie. Reminds me of the awesome score in Out of Sight.

  2. Dear Vern,

    please provide your reviews with an option for forwarding reviews – like your excellent take on Haywire – to friends of the readers. Since I am not part of Facebook it is not possible for me to forward this review to a friend. I would like to do that without submitting to the site of Zuckerberg.

    Best regards

    Jan Elvsén
    Sweden

  3. Griff – And there lies the truth. A message to the world that Cyborg may be the better fighter but she’s just not fuckable.

  4. This review is why I find HAYWIRE so frustrating, because I agree with most of what Vern says here(I’m not as crazy about the music, though I didn’t particularly dislike it like Paul did), except for living up to expectations, due to no real climax, which is something I think an action movie usually needs to be great. I’d have thought you’d address that particular choice, Vern, since I remember you thinking JCVD(which is a character based arty drama with a little bit of action) could have used a proper action setpiece ending, so I figured you’d be a bit harder on something that is actually meant to be an action movie.

    “Of course, professional fighter Carano has different strengths as a performer than Terence Stamp does”
    They both know how to take a Superman Punch though.

  5. Haywire II: Citizen Kane.

  6. David Lambert – thought you guys might like that…

  7. Motherfucker, Jackie Chan is not frail.

  8. Man this movie is awesome. So of course “audiences” don’t like it because “audiences” be trippin’.

  9. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Stu – I didn’t dislike “Haywire”. I absolutely agree with you on most points actually. And clearly you picked up more than I did (which seems to be a theme nowadays given Mouth’s points about “Sucker Punch”. Maybe if you watch it two or three times… but once was enough for me!)

    I did think this movie had some of the best directing I’ve ever seen from Soderbergh. That one scene where Carano walks down the street… absolute genius. I felt as though I was right there with her, looking out for people who might be watching her. Fantastic scene.

    A few comments on specific points:

    *

    “I figure they might not like the way both story and character are more implied and referred to than spelled out.”

    Vern, you’re right, I didn’t like it. I don’t necessarily want a backstory for Carano – Stu made an excellent case as to why this would have DETRACTED from the movie, not improved it – but I did want to know why all the characters were there and what they did. It’s made clear, for example, that Carano works for McGregor, who in turn runs a private contracting business that reports to Michael Douglas’ character. This is all well-laid-out early in the movie. Why couldn’t the same have been true for the rest of the relationships between the main characters?

    You remember in “The Thing”, it’s made clear what role everyone has and how they work together, yet there’s an absolute minimum of exposition needed to convey this? Well, I didn’t think “Haywire” accomplished this. I didn’t feel I knew anything about Antonio Banderas’ character or how he related to the others, for example. What’s his position in the service? Is he an outsider, an insider, an informant? (Again, if Stu is able to correct me here, I might have to punch something. The difference being I didn’t get a sense of this during the film. It’s all very well to analyse this stuff afterwards, but I didn’t NEED to do so to enjoy a film like “The Thing”.)

    *

    “I guess some people have claimed that Carano’s acting is weak. I completely disagree, I didn’t notice a single poor line delivery or anything like that.”

    I completely agree with this. I thought Carano did a great job of carrying the movie. Great screen presence, and obviously great with action scenes (I noticed the rear naked choke she uses on Fassbender’s character. Made me smile. Carano isn’t known for her submissions in the MMA world!)

    *

    “I think all the fights are done without music, but alot of the other scenes are heavily score driven, another great one by David Holmes. It’s reminiscent of OUT OF SIGHT with its driving basslines, super-tight drums and eerie electric pianos, but with horns in more of a Lalo Schifrin style.”

    NO. We do not compare this music to the guy who did “Enter the Dragon”. Now THAT’S how to score an action movie if you like. I usually really like David Holmes’ work, but not here. Couldn’t disagree with you more in fact, Vern. There were a few points at which I thought the soundtrack worked, but mostly it had a really cheesy elevator-music feel to it. For me.

  10. Now I’ve had time to digest it, I’d have to say my biggest problem with HAYWIRE was that it was pared down too much – there’s almost nothing left. No humour, wit, characterisation, or much of a plot.

    To be fair, I did find it for the most part incredibly well shot and edited, and Carano was pretty great (hopefully she’ll get more roles out of this), but I couldn’t take to it.

    Ten out of ten for pulling the camera back during the scraps and actually showing them (for the most part, anyway), but what I’d like to know is why Carano wasn’t given anyone to really go up against. We see what she can do but only in flashes. It’s like Soderbergh only wants to dip his toe into his action movie, like that’s dirty enough for him.

    He should have gone all out and put her up against 20 cops in Ireland instead of 2, or someone who can actually throw a punch instead of Ewan.

  11. Yeah that was the fight where Cyborg pummeled Carano. Of course, Cyborg also subsequently bodyslammed 240lb Tito Ortiz, and tested positive for steroids, thus explaining her appearance:

    http://cdn2.cagepotato.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Mma_a_cyborg12_576_medium.jpeg

    I liked the movie – it was really refreshing to see the actual fights, not a blurry set of movements (I blame the start of this trend on the fight with Bean in Goldeneye – you should check it out: it’s one of a low key set of movies about some English guy called James Bond), and I loved the sounds. That punch to the back of Carano’s head from Fassbender sounded pretty much exactly how a punch like that sounds.

    However, the MMA thing was a bit played up, and I don’t think she was really the smartest fighter in the world. Case in point – she tried to rear naked choke every opponent. Every one. And every one either slammed her against a wall, or elbowed her in the ribs and got loose. Every single one. Even Ewan McGregor. You’d think you might learn a bit from this after the first few times.

    SPOILER -> I loved the scene where McGregor is staring out at the ocean and you see Mallory come racing up behind him, looming like the Coyote behind Road Runner, though this particular Coyote has the benefit of delivering a pretty good superman punch:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CIKOxf6_gM

    Good movie – maybe the first that can be legitimately compared to Drive, Ocean’s 11, and the golden age of Seagal.

  12. Jan – well there’s always the ol’ email the link to somebody method, which is what I would use. If there’s some other option I can get a button for or something let me know and I’ll try to do it.

    Stu – SPOILERS – Are you saying it’s anticlimactic because it didn’t have a bigger action scene at the end, like a big gun fight or something? I didn’t find it anticlimactic. She chases down the guy, beats him up, gets the information she needs, and leaves him to die (I guess this is the exception to my claim that they don’t have time for sadism). You’re right, it’s small scale compared to many action movies, but that didn’t occur to me while watching it. It didn’t feel to me like that kind of movie. Maybe it’s the similarities to THE LIMEY, which come to think of it winds up pretty much the same way, pinning the guy on a beach and making him reveal the truth.

    Mouth – okay, you’re right, I was just trying to give him the okay for going after more straight acting roles like he’s been doing.

    Paul – how can you not compare it to Lalo Schifrin? Do you seriously not see the influence?

  13. I agree with Vern. I enjoyed the no-nonsense simplicity of the movie. Girl beats people up for a living, girl gets betrayed, girl beats up the guys who betrayed her. Gina doesn’t have any great acting moments, but she’s likeable. And hot. I also liked the score.

    As for Soderbergh, he’s been debunking the “retiring” rumor ever since Matt Damon spoke for him during some interview. I hope he sticks around for a while. I like his willingness to experiment.

    And I think NORMAL PEOPLE EXIT POLLING is weak because the movie is old school. It has a bunch of long shots, no exaggerated sound effects and lots of moments without music/talking (most of the moviegoing public HATES that. They start shifting around and coughing uncontrollably)

  14. Partial forgiveness, then. I’m hoping to rent 1911 soon so I can see Jackie do his big historical epic thing. Hopefully it’s more fun than SHINJUKU INCIDENT.

    HAYWIRE is typical Soderbergh, which is a blessing, a curse, and a nonsensical statement for me to make since there’s supposed to be no such thing as “typical” Soderbergh. His primary goal seems to be to do something different & unique with each movie.

    But the evidence is there — blue/yellow/other color filters for 1/2/3 distinct settings, the “experimental” nonlinear editing & sound design that blows mouth-breathing Americans’ minds, and dialogueistical restraint occasionally bordering on minimalism.

    Didn’t shift the tectonic plates of my world or anything, but I’m very glad I saw HAYWIRE and I hope I get to see Gina Carano fight some more on the bigscreen, either in KANE KRONICLES 2: MALLORY’S REVENGE (CONTINUED) or something that involves Zoe Bell where we can finally settle the inescapable “empowerment or exploitation” lady-movie debate once & for all using the proper level of realistic violence that the argument demands.

  15. Paul- I meant specifically that I didn’t dislike the music like you did

    Vern- SPOILERS
    Except it doesn’t end with the beach. She goes on to the final scene in Majorca, and I don’t get why she’d bother with that character in particular, since she’d already dealt with the main guy who betrayed her. The final one merely hired McGregor to do a job, on behalf of another guy. There was no real malice towards Mallory. So if she went after that guy, she’s got just as much motivation to go after the really bad guy, but there’s no indication that happens, despite the fact she says she doesn’t like loose ends.I didn’t need a particularly big shootout or explosions(I just cite those as examples), but something a bit more challenging for Carano than what she’d been doing up till then. The most guys she’d had to deal at once in the movie was fighting two SWAT type guys at once. If it had been her just infiltrating the real bad guy’s mansion at the end, and eliminating all his guards (at first through stealth, then improvisational badassness when that’s blown) until she had him all to herself, that would have been enough for me. I guess I just thought we were getting excited about this movie because we thought it would finally be a modern action movie done right(albeit with some original touches), and I expected a little more than what was delivered.

  16. I’m afraid I agree with those of you who were a bit underwhelmed by this one. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it; it’s very accomplished, and the fights, what there were of them, were excellent. But the fights help accentuate the issue I had with this thing; there really wasn’t much sense of escalation. It’s not like the fights got tougher for her–either physically or emotionally–or the opponents more numerous or devious. Instead it was like watching the same basic fight, transplanted to different scenes, over and over again, with minimal variation.

    Now, typing this feels weird. I’m not a formula guy. I don’t need a standard package of fight the first level boss, precede to the second, rinse and repeat. And I don’t think you have to keep ramping up the action until it’s a big HARDBOILED gun battle to be an effective action movie. Case in point, I loved how KILL BILL 2 ended with her and Bill, talking it out and ending with the five fingered exploding heart technique. However, KILL BILL does help me showcase my problem with HAYWIRE; it had that tense intimate finale, but it also had the House of Blue Leaves scene (okay, technically, part 1 had the House of Blue Leaves scene), not to mention the burial scene, etc. In other words, it varied it up, and that’s what I’d like to see more of in HAYWIRE, some variability.

    Lastly, she made two choices that just kind of perplexed me. The first the movie’s very aware of, because after she chases down the shooter in Barcelona, smacks him around, and leaves him under the gate, she’s asked, “why did you do that?” Her answer, “I don’t like lose ends,” is your standard badass response–except she didn’t kill him, and since we didn’t see her notifying the police or a second team it’s quite possible that he got out from under that thing and is out there still, so I was just kind of left to think, “huh, you really didn’t need to push it that far.” After all, if he’d been a little later he wouldn’t have seen them nab the Chinese journalist at all (and this is me getting that the point was that she never quits, and will track down everyone who did her wrong. Again, I get it thematically, but literally I was left scratching my head). The second time she had me doing this is during the car chase. I loved how it was shot, and the (SPOILER) deer was excellent. But then I realized, she didn’t accomplish anything with any of that. She still ended up in custody, and the cops still took her to the not-feds, so I can’t really buy her earlier explanation that “I bought us some time.” Time for what?

    Sorry to sound negative. This was a solid movie all in all, but I’m with those who also thought that tonally it didn’t shift its gears as much as it could have. At certain point I wanted it to kick it up a notch.

  17. Stu – She went after that guy because a) he was in on it, and everyone must pay, and b) it’s her job now. She works for Michael Douglas, and her first job is to find the mole who sold out his organization. It’s not so much a climax as a denouement, a little gag to let you know that Mallory Kane will continue to fuck shit up in the manner to which you have become accustomed well into the foreseeable future. I find that much more satisfying and correct for this particular motion picture than a massive battle royal with her fighting 20 guys, which the movie had given me no evidence to believe she can do. I guess we’re so accustomed to seeing characters who can take on small armies by themselves that we forget that that’s pretty much impossible. She’s not a superhero. She’s just a more-or-less realistically badass motherfucker. I like her that way.

  18. Bad Seed- When she gives up, she says “Okay, we’ve done enough”, and I think maybe she meant to do enough criminal activity that the feds would be the ones who took her in, rather than just local cops? She later distrusts the news of the feds coming to collect because it’s too soon in her view for it not be a set up.

    Mr. Majestyk- SPOILER

    IS she really working for Douglas though? I wasn’t sure, because when he asks if she accepts the job, she says “I’ll let you know when I find him”, so I got the impression Douglas would have wanted her to keep McGregor alive so he can implicate the others properly, but she lets him die after getting the bare minimum information. So going after Banderas came across as more personal to me. Also, what was Banderas’ motivation? When asked what he got out of the deal he said “a new wife”. Eh? What, you mean he was rich enough now to leave his old one and start a new life? I got the impression he was pretty well off already.

  19. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Karlos:

    “Ten out of ten for pulling the camera back during the scraps and actually showing them (for the most part, anyway), but what I’d like to know is why Carano wasn’t given anyone to really go up against.”

    THANK YOU! That’s EXACTLY the main problem I had with this movie. Who the heck wants Gina Carano’s last fight in the movie to be against Ewan MacGregor?

    Bad Seed – in all fairness, the “samey fights” criticism can be applied to just about eighty percent of action movies out there. I mean, I love Jackie Chan, but I see the same stunts from him again and again, often in the same movies. (In fact, I’d say that his best movies – “Police Story 2” being a prime example – are when he manages to break out of this pattern. Somebody once wrote a very good essay on how action sequences reflect mood. Unfortunately I can’t remember who and I don’t have the link, but it reminded me of PS2. Jackie’s fights range from reluctant to businesslike to furious and vengeful in that movie.)

    Vern – maybe I’m about to complete the triple crown of stupid here, but I honestly don’t see any direct “influence”. I mean, I guess there are similarities between “Haywire”‘s jazzy beats and “Enter the Dragon”‘s iconic theme song, but Schifrin’s score is the exact opposite of “cool”… to me Holmes was going for “laid back / stylish” and ended up hitting “stultifying”.

    I dunno, reactions to music are always subjective to a degree, and I particularly dislike the particular genre of it that Soderbergh seems to love… “Smooth jazz” to me is the same kind of thing as “classical easy-listening”. I don’t think these types of music are supposed to be “easy” – or at least, when they ARE like that, they don’t appeal to me. If I listen to classical music or jazz, it’s because I want to be taken on a musical journey full of BIG emotions – love, hate, despair, triumph, etc. I don’t want the lyricless equivalent of some guy with a guitar strumming about how chilled he is. I ESPECIALLY don’t want it in an action movie.

    But like I said… it reminded me of the stuff that gets played when you’re waiting “on hold” on the phone. Hell, part of it reminded me directly of one of British Telecom’s hold music tracks (I fucking wish I was kidding, I have to call those guys about twenty times a day in my job and I do not want to be reminded of it when I’m relaxing at the movies. FTR it’s the bit that borrows its bassline from Rob D’s “clubbed to death”.) Again, I know it’s subjective, but… is that really what they were going for?

    Anyway, music aside, I think I’m on the same page as Stu here. Like I said, I think I’m now officially ready to give up Soderbergh. He’s a great technical director who has had many, many moments of genius, some of them in this movie. At the same time he has no idea how to tell a story in such a way that I find it, or the characters in it, interesting.

  20. She’s not gonna tell him yes right away. She’s gonna play it coy. What kind of girl do you think she is?

    But really, all this shit, I just don’t care about it. Not in the slightest. In fact, I feel like focusing on the story is clearly pretty detrimental to one’s enjoyment of the movie. Soderbergh picked the most standard espionage plot there is (spy gets burned by member of his own agency) because he assumed the audience would get the gist right away so he wouldn’t have to spend a bunch of time on tedious exposition that nobody really cares about anyway. Instead, he can focus on the tone, the rhythm, the mood, the movement. All the stuff that is gonna make a Soderbergh action picture different than one that follows the rules. It’s about the music of the piece, not the words.

  21. She went after Banderas because he organized the whole thing. Plus, she knows who she is. So she’s tying up her loose ends before he tries to tie up his.
    And Banderas obviously did it for money. “The good life and a new wife”

  22. I meant “he knows who she is”

  23. Paul:

    I’m not sure you can get a more of a direct influence than Soderbergh actually saying “Schifrin this shit up”.

    ‘For this, we started to talk about Lalo Schifrin, a composer we like a lot who did Bullitt and the Mission: Impossible theme. He’s a really great composer. And there’s this one cue in Bullitt called “Shifting Gears” that has these great horns. It’s a specific type of horn, a jazz horn. I became obsessed with that, and David really ran with it. The score needed to sound more like the character than the genre. I wanted it to be more closely bound to what she feels like than what this kind of movie feels like in general.’

    http://mail.slantmagazine.com/film/feature/interview-steven-soderbergh/300

  24. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 7:46 pm

    Caoimhin – so basically, Soderbergh’s “influence” extends to a “jazz horn”? Not quite convinced that’s “Schifrin this shit up”, but ok.

  25. All these complaints about the ending being anticlimactic and unsatisfying remind me of similar complaints a lot of people had about the end of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Many people seemed to view it as betrayal of their expectations for the genre. I would argue that the fault lies not in the betrayal, but in the expectations. The problem is that nearly every single movie has the same rising action, climax, denouement formula so we come to expect it from every movie. But shouldn’t one or two movies here and there try something different? Especially a movie like HAYWIRE which is going for realism. Are these bad guys really going to have fortified compounds and tons of bodyguards?

    I’m a firm believer that movie viewers bear some of the responsibility for making a movie good. And a lot of that is trying to enjoy movies for what they are actually doing, not what we expect or even prefer them to do. I’d be interested to see if you guys who dislike the ending like it more on a second viewing with different expectations.

    Bad Seed – (SPOILER) I don’t understand why her decision to run from the cops was confusing because it ultimately accomplished nothing. How was she to know it would fail when she decided to run?

  26. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 22nd, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Oh, and just so I have a running count…

    Film rankings for the year so far would go something like this: “Margin Call”, great; “TGWTDT”, great; “The Silence”, great; “Haywire”, pretty good.

    Been a pretty good year so far.

  27. Paul– I get what you’re saying. There are only so many crane styles to go around, and even less fight choreographers. My comment about the sameness of the fights was targeting not just variations of kicking and punching, but also dramatic points in time. I wanted it to feel different when she was fighting the ex-boyfriend whose betrayal stemmed from her leaving his company, thus jeopardizing his business and causing him to accept Banderas’ offer, than when she’s fighting the total stranger assigned to play her husband, or even the casual one night stand from Spain. Proponents of the movie will cite her detachment as indicative of her badass character and the overall cool jazz tone of the film, but for me in translated into a removed coldness.

    Interestingly, I think the distance I feel from this piece is akin to what I experienced when I watched THE BOYFRIEND EXPERIENCE. In both cases Soderbergh cast unconventional actresses in the roles based on their day jobs, and these skills got them so far, up until they had to show any sort of vulnerability. In Grey’s case, the nature of porn work means exposing everything to the camera while protecting some small core of yourself from the world, and this instinct made it hard for me to feel her distress as her clients slipped away and her boyfriend distanced himself from her. In other words, I just didn’t feel the desperation in her performance as her comfortable world slipped away, unlike say, Richard Gere in AMERICAN GIGOLO (really, he’s so good in that, honest). Likewise, Carano by profession has to be tough as all hell, so emotions like fear, distress, etc, don’t come through for me as things spin out of control. She is and remains a badass—and I fully recognize that’s a conscious choice by the filmmaker. It just doesn’t do it for me, not all the way.

    Now, to be fair, I think this reveals my own bias when it comes to action; I prefer the Van Damme school of getting your ass kicked right up until a phoenix-like rise from the ashes over the Seagal or even Bruce Lee mow em down approach, but in either case, a little fear in the eyes–or even second’s hesitation or moment of doubt–would have gone a long way to sell me a little more on all of this.

    STU and JAKE: Thanks for the explanation. Jake, I get that she was trying to get away and failed. It’s her line at the end that made me think she was playing a deeper game than “well shit, I gave it my best shot.” Stu’s idea of the feds sorta makes sense, but you’d think that she’d rather just cold cock a couple of local cops rather than wait to be handed over to the feds. Better still, if that was her play, why not go up to the road block and get caught there? After all, couldn’t they run her name in the system, and she’d get flagged that way? I don’t know, the line made me expect more is all.

    It’s not something that killed the movie for me or anything, just something that made me go huh and shrug. Anyway, I did like the deer (although I’m sure he was hoping for a better payoff than that; sorry deer).

  28. Bad Seed – (SPOILER) Okay, I see what you mean. I had figured the “we’ve done enough” line to mean there was no point in trying a foot chase or beating up the cops since that would ultimately result in her capture anyway. It didn’t occur to me that it could also be interpreted as you did. Or as Stu did, for that matter. That’s one of the things I love about the film. The lack of concrete explanations for everything that so many mainstream films rely on.

  29. The crowd I saw HAYWIRE with was pretty evenly divided on the movie. Those familiar with Soderbergh’s recent stuff like GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE and CONTAGION didn’t find the “anticlimactic” structure offputting (it’s actually more conventionally structured than a lot of his stuff) while those who were unfamilar with his work seemed a bit lost. But not as lost as that guy at the screening of A SERIOUS MAN that I attended who shouted at the screen that the Coens had betrayed him. I wonder if that guy is out there in Hollywood picking off the executive producers of A SERIOUS MAN one by one, slowing making his way to Ethan and Joel.

    But on the other hand, there wasn’t that special Gosling factor that DRIVE had that seemed to sway the wary. Even dudes left DRIVE attracted to Gosling.

    McGreggor telling Fassbinder that it would be a mistake for him to think of Carano as a girl got a big laugh.

    And of course a small segment of the audience were so shocked by the coffee-pot-to-the-head in the opening scene that they left the theater. That’s the exact moment me and my buddies knew Soderbergh wasn’t holding back.

    My personal favorite detail was the shot of Carano chasing after the guy in Barcelona. In particular, the intelligent look of an athlete on her face while she was running. She seemed to be so mindful of what her body required to perform the task she had set for herself. Much better suited to the material than the standard action-hero-running face you usually get in scenes like that.

  30. Jareth: At my showing, the one black guy who feels the need to inform the audience of his thoughts on the movie (the one who comes standard with every screen in New York City) seemed to enjoy it quite a bit, laughing appreciatively at the brutality of the beatdowns and remarking wistfully on the obvious strength contained in Carano’s thigh muscles. The OBGWFTNTITAOFHTOTM’s response is usually my barometer for how an action movie will play with general audiences who might be predisposed to like this kind of thing, so I have high hopes for a decent DVD and cable run for HAYWIRE, which might just lead to a couple of those DTV sequels Vern was talking about.

    Also, I’m glad you brought up the look on her face while she was running. It was just such a joy to watch this woman move. There weren’t any superhero poses or posturing. Every move she made seemed practical and lived in, like when she limbered up as soon as she saw Tatum because she knew a disagreement was about to go down.

  31. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Bad Seed – I also get what you’re saying; and what you say regarding the fights between, say, the stranger and the trecherous ex-boyfriend, comes back to the point about action being used to convey a mood or emotion. Didn’t feel like I got that from “Haywire” for the most part, although again, there are a couple of scenes that stood out for me.

    Damn it, I wanted to review “Margin Call” and I STILL haven’t done so, but it kinda relates to this point.

    See, in “Margin Call”, which is a thriller set within a Wall Street investment company, there is a brilliant cast – Jeremy Irons (in a scene-stealing role as the company President), Kevin Spacey (the best he’s been in at least a decade, easily, of the films I’ve seen of his), Simon Baker (in an ultra-dark turn on his solipsist persona from “The Mentalist”), with other great turns from the likes of Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, and a near-unrecognisable Demi Moore.

    Look, this film has received great reviews from everyone, which I totally agree with. But here’s what I particularly loved about it: every single character in it has their own distinct personality. Every character has their own “place” in the film, and that place is immediately made clear. We know who they are and what they do. Every single one of the actors I’ve just named has their chance to shine. Every one of them has a clearly-defined character with their own thoughts, prejudices, and perception of the world.

    Anything I didn’t like about this film? – Yes. On two occasions, characters – Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany – go into late Aaron Sorkin-esque monologues. Well, they didn’t work for Sorkin, who was at his best when character dialogue is mostly quick-fire back-and-forth debates; they don’t work here either. These characters are absolutely part of the system that they’re still tied to, even as it’s crashing around them; for them to start questioning the morality of it seems kinda forced.

    Other than that, this is that rare animal: a near-perfect film. Kevin Spacey should absolutely be up for a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar nod, if the Oscar committe gives any kind of a damn about the quality of a performance. (He won’t even get a look-in, then.) J. C. Chandor should easily get the “Best Screenplay” award. (Again, never gonna happen.)

    But basically I utterly and completely recommend this film to anybody who wasn’t immediately put off by the idea of a drama set at an investment company. If you like this type of film, you will love this film. If you thought “Ides of March” was one of the best of last year, as I did, you will love this film.

  32. One moment I really liked in the Fassbender fight is the point when he starts to show that he’s giving up, a split second before she kicks him through the glass door.

  33. He made the mistake of seeing her as a woman, thinking the “fairer sex” might just show mercy. Didn’t work out for him too well, I don’t think.

  34. Yeah, I thought that was great too. And the pillow snuff just capped it (no pun intended).

  35. Majestyk: Even when Carano did an intricate, showy move, like when she used a wall as a springboard to pummel her opponent, she assisuously avoided those heroic poses you mentioned. More than once during the screening I found myself really enjoying the fact that no one stopped to deliver a line like that “who’s your daddy?” moment in MR & MRS SMITH.

    The screening I saw was pretty quiet, but Carano’s appearance in the background to take out McGreggor at the end received one of those joyous inhalations from the crowd.

    Stu: The pillow to the face in the Fassbinder fight was so ruthless. I really liked that. And I especially like how the later flashback scene with McGreggor and Fassbinder, which shows how honorable Fassbinder is, makes you feel a.) bad for Fassbinder, and b.) even more pissed off at McGreggor.

  36. Seriously, to those complaining about the score, I simply can’t understand it.
    It’s absolutely a throwback to great Lalo Schifrin stuff from the 70s. I mean, listen to this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22ER215_arg&feature=BFa&list=ULdVg9MAujpw4&lf=mfu_in_order
    and tell me that doesn’t sound like something straight out of Bullitt.

  37. “Those” implies that more than one person is complaining about the score.

  38. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Meh, maybe it’s just me. I just can’t get over that elevator-music jazz shite.

    And not all of it, but some bits in particular – the bits where the other sound was muted or removed entirely and it was just a montage delivered to said elevator-music jazz shite – just didn’t work for me. Like I said, it’s subjective.

  39. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    And FTR I quite like that one Bullett.

    The one that I particularly remember as hating was from early in the movie, had a similar bassline to Rob D’s “clubbed to death”.

  40. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    Oh here it is. I think this is the one that really got my goat.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znmgu-GOIuQ&feature=related

    Hearing it now, I actually like it a lot more than I did during the movie. I think the reason for that is that I’m not being blased by obnoxious horns on all sides at 100dB. Having said that… hearing the Schifrin influence, in a way, makes it worse. Because I really really like Schifrin, and I really didn’t like this, largely I think because it was the ONLY thing you heard during those scenes. No sound effects, no dialogue, nothing else, so they were entirely relying upon the score to drive the tension.

  41. How do you folks feel about this one as a role for a convincing female action hero? I liked Carano and the film as a whole, but thought that perhaps it missed an opportunity to craft a more unique believable female badass. There are some slight but welcome character touches which you might not see with a male lead (her confident sexuality, love of wine, relationship with her dad) but overall I was slightly dissapointed that her character is another spin on the ill-advised Ripley rip-off trope where they just take a man and add boobs and it counts as feminism. The fact that she’s a woman seems like it’s almost used as a gimmik. Would this have been a very noteworthy character had she been male? I don’t think so. Here they have a genuinely believable female badass but don’t really let her create an iconic character or do anything unique.

    A small complaint, and perhaps not a fair one to saddle this likeble and fun movie with. But still a missed opportunity, IMHO.

  42. Mr. S. – You’re asking it to do that thing that they used to have to do with every movie starring a black character. He/she can’t just be an individual, he/she has to be representative of his/her minority group. That’s actually pretty condescending, if you think about it, to suggest that any group is so homogenous that it could be represented by one person with one set of characteristics. Why does she have to be a representative of the current state of the female action heroes? What would have made her more female to you? Would you have had her stop in the middle of a chase scene to get some tampons? Furthermore, why can’t this character be granted the same right to one-dimensionality that all male action stars are accorded? No one ever asks that Jason Statham have something to say about men in cinema. He kicks ass, and that’s all we need to know about him.

    To me, treating her as the movie explicitly asks you to (“You’re thinking of her as a woman. That’s a mistake.”) is the way to go. Her sex is completely insignificant to her job, and she in fact bristles when asked to play a female role. The feminism in this movie comes from the fact that her sex is completely unimportant, both to her and to the people around her. The fact that she is the equal of every man in every way is so obvious that it is beneath mention.

  43. Definitely going to see that one, especially after reading Soderberghs
    Interview with A.V. Club, were he mentions that Screenwriter
    Lem Dobbs forced him to see the fistfight between Rod Taylor and legendary Badass William Smith from “Darker than Amber” and how it influenced their approach to the fightscenes in “Haywire”.

    http://www.avclub.com/articles/steven-soderbergh,67814/

    Man William Smith is one scary dude, it’s high time for a appreciative Filmography by Vern.

  44. Paul, do they seriously play music like that in elevators over there? It seems like it would only encourage heists and impossible missions.

  45. Mr. M — an entirely fair point, and I fully admit that it’s totally unfair to ask one of the few films to take seriously the idea of a realistic female action hero to set right all the stereotypes of the past (and, in fact, that by putting it in that context I de facto stigmatize the idea of a female action hero as somehow substantially different than a possible male counterpoint).

    However, I’d like to argue that to some degree, the film is already doing that. I think it pretty tough to deny that Soderbergh’s not taking a certain pleasure in subverting the genre with a gender switch– and given that it’s the film’s hook, I think it a bit disappointing that it doesn’t do more with it. You’re right, I don’t ask Jason Statham to represent men (although of course we could easily discuss contemporary action cinema’s evolving definition of hypermasculinty until our fingers fell off, so I don’t quite buy that male films are free of gender messages either) but on the other hand, he’s also a significantly more charismatic actor than Carano is. She’s a fine athlete and does a perfectly respectable fine job in the role, but come on. If this was Tom Atkins in that role I seriously doubt Soderbergh would have gotten interested enough to make it. So I don’t quite buy that I’m out of line for dragging gender media tropes into the discussion.

    And honestly, I would actually love to see an action movie where the badass female lead has to stop and McGuyver herself some tampons. It’s not a joke, its just what younger women have to do, and that’s the kind of uniquely feminine perspective which is almost entirely absent from female action hero roles. Since they have an unusually believable one here, it was a great opportunity to explore that angle a bit more, to show us something different, and maybe even to actually carve out a new archetype.

    Not, of course, that every film has to advance the cause. This one is perfectly fine as it is, and I am absolutely not calling it sexist or saying that I think it needed to be any different than it is. Plenty of great action films have stock action archetypes, both male and female, and this is one of them. But at the end of the day, Mel is simply not all that interesting a character or that compelling of a performance. Not that she’s bad, its just pretty generic in nearly every sense. So, since I feel like they already baited the line with their female MMA fighter hook, they might as well have explored that angle a little more. It would have made the film a little more interesting. And since female MMA fighter spy thriller films directed by Steven Soderbergh don’t come around all too often, I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret that this one is merely a fun and well-made arty genre excursion instead of something a little more ambitious.

    Still awesome, though.

  46. Shit, I mean Scott Adkins, not Tom Atkins. Although obviously that would be pretty great too.

  47. My favorite of Soderbergh’s is probably CHE Part One: The Argentine. Because seriously guys, when I watch that movie I get the sense that Soderbergh really could be the next Sergio Leone, or at least the contemporary socially and politically empathic equivalent thereof.

  48. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Mr S – don’t even go there, trust me. The moment you start arguing whether something was “intended” or not, you get into the kind of argument that kept Mouth and me going on about “Sucker Punch” for about two months… plus you might end up having to admit the other guy may have a point, which is worse.

  49. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 2:03 am

    Vern – more the smooth jazz that I thought it was. I have to admit that at least parts of the Haywire soundtrack sound a lot better when you don’t listen to them as part of an action movie. Trouble is, they ARE part of an action movie.

    Plus, again, it reminded me of “Out of Sight”. A movie that I had roughly the same reaction to as you did to “Waking Life”.

    Sorry for being so bitchy here, by the way. Seems like I got nothing but complaints recently, but that really isn’t the case… I’ve seen three really great films already this year, with “Haywire” bringing up the rear. (And honestly, for all my problems with “Haywire”, if that’s the worst film you see in a month then it’s a pretty damn good month.)

  50. Gotta agree with your love for CHE Part 1, Henry. It’s the best biopic/historical drama I saw since The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

    Am I the only one who saw some Soderberg influences in DRIVE?

    P.S. My favourite camera-in-car chase is still the one in We Own The Night. Very underrated movie.

  51. Mr. S. – I’m not suggesting that gender wasn’t on Soderbergh’s mind when he decided to make this movie. I’m suggesting that his method of dealing with it was to ignore it, to treat Mallory the same way he would if a male actor had been in the role. He’s not saying anything about the state of the female action hero because there’s nothing to say about it. An action hero is an action hero. They kick ass, they get the job done, and they’re not to be fucked with. What they’ve got between their legs doesn’t factor into it.

  52. Paul: Smooth jazz is stuff like Kenny G., David Sanborn and Sting. It is a mainstream variation of the fusion of jazz and rock in the late 1960s. It tends to consist of simple rock structures with lite jazz instrumentation. It aims to produce a soothing mood.

    Lalo Schifrin composes rhythmically complex, mutant strains of pre-fusion jazz with heavy doses of various latin styles, like bossa nova, and funk. It aims to put some swing in your strutt.

    Calling Schifrin smooth jazz is like calling Captain Beefheart doo-wop.

    Also, Schiffrin wrote a piece of music for THE EXORCIST that was used in the trailers. It was considered so scary and disturbing that Friedkin rejected the score entirely (literally throwing it out into a parking lot).

  53. But Mr. M, isn’t that kind of a commentary in itself? I mean, considering gender is obviously on Soderbergh’s mind, I think ignoring it is the least interesting route possible, if for no other reason than that terrain has been pretty thoroughly mapped before. The “What they’ve got between their legs doesn’t factor into it.” action hero is the one trope which is pretty commonplace. There’s a dozen Michelle Rodriguez or Milla Jovovich roles which pretty much take the same approach. Since Soderbergh seems to be engaged in at least some little bit of genre deconstruction here, it would have been cool to create a character we hadn’t seen before, particularly since he has a kind of actor we haven’t seen much of before and rarely see in this modern age at all. It’s fine the way he did it, but a little bland. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Soderbergh may think he’s being more progressive than he’s actually is by casting a woman in an utterly generic action role and then ignoring it. It’s possible he doesn’t watch too many UNDERWOLD sequels, you know?

    Its usually part of my code of filmatism no to never complain about something a film DOESN’T do. You gotta look at the film that exists, not the film you wish existed, right? It’s like those Star Warsies complainging that the films are bad because they don’t tell the story as they always imagined it would be. But in this particular instance you’ve got such an unusual confluence of awesome elements that I can’t help wishing they’d been shooting for something more than a better made version of the same old thing.

  54. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    “Calling Schifrin smooth jazz is like calling Captain Beefheart doo-wop.”

    Holy fucking shit, dude, you don’t think I was referring to SCHIFRIN as doing “smooth jazz”? One of my favorite composers of film scores ever? Somebody who’s not quite up there with Herrman, but is definitely in the upper echelons? I was referring to David Holmes in this movie (and also “Out of Sight”). Damn, I know I get a reputation for having somewhat out-there opinions, but not THAT much!

    *

    As for your other points… Kenny G, entirely agree with. Haven’t actively sought out anything of David Sanborn’s although I just about know who he is, so I can’t comment there. And I wouldn’t say most of Sting’s output counts as “smooth jazz”, although stuff like “Fields of Gold”, maybe, might be. I mostly know him from the Police days, a group that had a very distinctive rock sound (one wouldn’t ever refer to “Roxanne” or “Every Breath you Take” as jazz, surely?) His solo stuff I haven’t sought out much, and don’t intend to; what I’ve heard of it is largely inferior to the stuff where the rest of the Police were involved.

    And what I’m referring to as “smooth jazz” is the kind of thing where some white guy gives an eight-minute saxophone duet with some guy on a double-bass that never actually goes anywhere or does anything interesting musically speaking, and they call it a song. (Or “improv”, which is worse, because it adds a whole other layer of douchebag pretentiousness to it. Seriously, if you ever hear somebody say something like, “Yeah, I did a good saxophone improv last night”, hit ’em over the head with a brick.) I am in no way denigrating the entire jazz music genre – just this one part of it. I find it lazy, self-indulgent, and ultimately worthless. A lot of which is how the “Haywire” score seemed to me when watching the film. And “Fields of Gold”, come to that.

    Listening to it on its own… I think I was harsh, to be honest, but I don’t think I was totally off-base with the “noodling guitars” comparison. If you are going to have sections of your film scored entirely by a single music track, with no sound effects or dialogue, you better make damn sure it’s the best track ever.

  55. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Oh, and to make myself clear, I’m not denigrating the entire field of music that’s composed by improvisation either. Just “improv”. With all the shallow pretentiousness that that horrible word implies.

  56. Mr. S – I don’t know, man. Personally, I think the simple approach is best. This is a story about an ex-Marine . Somehow, I don’t think the Corps taught her to be a uniquely female kind of badass. They’d train her to be a soldier, which comes with it a whole shitload of stereotypically masculine traits. Her femininity would not realistically be a major part of her working life, which is really all we see. Ignoring her gender might not be metatextually interesting for you, but it’s probably the approach that makes the most sense in terms of her history.

    I mean, there’s plenty of shit you can read into if you’re so inclined. The closest Mallory came to defeat was when she was stripped of her androgyny and rebranded as female. What does that mean? Personally, I don’t really care, but it’s something you can chew on if you want.

    Maybe there’s a filmmaker out there who can make a good action movie about the representation of female heroines in action cinema, but I’d sure like that movie to be made by a female director with a personal stake in the subject and not a restless stylist who just wanted to get a kung fu flick into his genre poo poo platter before he retired.

  57. Point taken. And when they make that movie, we’ll be able to watch this one and be like “thank god they didn’t muck up a nicely funky badass revenge movie with a lot of gender studies garbage.”

  58. Believe me, I was studying her gender plenty. I didn’t need the movie to do it for me.

    Ha! You thought I was a sensitive modern male who was able to look at a woman as a person and not a sex object! Wrong! I just like watching hot chicks kick people!

    Sexism: It’s great!

  59. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Can somebody explain to me why action movies have to be “about” action movies nowadays?

  60. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    And – at the risk of starting up an old, old, OLD argument between myself and Mouth, why does a film about hot chicks kicking ass have to be about films about hot chicks kicking ass? Why can’t it just be about hot chicks kicking ass? Is that somehow taboo?

  61. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Seriously… if this continues, I expect to see Soderburgh / Snyder direct a film about films about films about hot chicks kicking ass, featuring hot chicks kicking ass.

  62. Yeah, of all the ways deadly professional assassins die, between Gina Carano’s legs has to be among the better ones. So don’t feel too bad for ol’ Michael Fassbender.

  63. Well, Paul, I think we just established that, no, films about hot chicks kicking ass don’t have to be about films about hot chicks kicking ass. Mr. S’s line “thank god they didn’t muck up a nicely funky badass revenge movie with a lot of gender studies garbage” summed it up pretty well, in my opinion.

  64. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Yes, but he was also the one who pointed out that: “But Mr. M, isn’t that kind of a commentary in itself? I mean, considering gender is obviously on Soderbergh’s mind, I think ignoring it is the least interesting route possible, if for no other reason than that terrain has been pretty thoroughly mapped before.”

    So gender-neutral female action stars are possible but dull due to overuse? That’s what I read into it…

  65. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 24th, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Also I have nothing whatsoever against hot chicks kicking ass, on principle. It just seems to be done so ineffectively a lot of the time. Yeah, I liked Gina, but she barely had any ass to kick. (Ok that sounded bizarrely wrong.) Once Fassbender got triangle’d, there was really no other physical threat to her.

  66. Well, if you look at the story chronologically, she still had to fight Tatum, who fucked her up pretty good before she handed his ass to him in a doggy bag. In any case, Seagal has gone through entire movies (including OUT FOR JUSTICE, arguably his best one) without anyone laying a hand on him, so I don’t see why having someone be a real physical threat to her is necessary. Sometimes it’s fun to watch someone just dominate motherfuckers.

  67. Yeah, I often enjoy myself more when a film is self-contained, when it doesn’t strive for a universal message or some form of meta-ness, when the presence of influences is non-existent or at least uninvasive, when it is the manifestation of the creativeness of one individual or the result of one unified creative vision. And I find this approach more liberating & correct than to call a film “a genre film,” which is inappropriately limiting, in my opinion.

    By this criterion, I can derive the same kind of thrill & cerebral satisfaction from watching, say, IN BRUGES that I get from HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH that I get from HAYWIRE that I get from a good Bill Hicks standup bit. They’re not all equally successful or entertaining in all facets, but they seem to come from an original idea and are realized without the effects of muddled crowdsourcing or overreaching for universality. They’re not trying to teach me a lesson, and I find myself able to achieve suspension of disbelief more easily when I do not face didacticism.

    Of course, I also enjoy a lot of stuff that does strive for meta-universal-sucker-punchy messages.

  68. Paul — They don’t have to be, but both Soderbergh and Snyder are a little too consciously shifty about their genre for me to think they’re entirely committed to simple asskicking. So ask them, I don’t know why. I love asskicking, I love hot women. That seems like it would be a pretty good combination. Someone should make one of those, but make it good. Hardcore female badass = awesome. I just felt like Soderbergh didn’t try very hard to make this one a very iconic character. I even like Rhona Mitra in DOOMSDAY. She can’t kick ass as good as Carano can, but at least they gave her an eyepatch. Derivative, sure, but at least a little more colorful.

  69. Man, this movie bugs me the more I think about it. The fight scenes were incredible, excactly the type I love, but everything else was way too thin. There’s something oppressive to me about all of Soderbergh’s static setups, and I thought the chase scenes were too glib (David Holmes’ score mostly hurt the movie here). More than anything, I just could not care about anything in this movie. It felt so hollow and half-assed.

    This flick had a bunch of crazy machinations in it, most of which were totally oblique to me. That didn’t bother me, because the movie only really required you to have a vague understanding of who the bad guy was at any given point. But the extraneous nature of those details made the movie feel distant, and contributed to the feeling that this was just an empty exercise in action staging for Soderbergh.

    I mean, did anyone who saw this really care if Mallory got revenge? Was there a single development in it that invited any kind of audience response – besides the thrills of the fighting sequences? The fights, again, are out-of-this-world good, but come on, I need more than that to sustain me. I’m not saying I needed some kind of emotional catharsis, but the movie was missing something that would draw me into its world. Generally speaking, the things that make an action movie good are the same as the things that make any movie good, especially one particular thing – a reason to care about what’s happening, why it’s happening, and who it’s happening to. From a storytelling perspective the whole movie felt like a big shrug followed by a “who cares?”

  70. Rehydrated Dehydrated Pirate Paul

    January 25th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    AF – unfortunately I completely agree with you. Although ironically I’m reconsidering the score now I’ve heard it outside of the movie. Trouble is, I didn’t like it IN the movie… and that’s always bad news.

    Anyway, there are good afternoons (like the one I spent watching “In Bruges”.) There are bad afternoons (I dunno, the one I spent watching “Captain America”? Also the one where my cat died. Two bad afternoons.) And there are weird afternoons.

    For example, I spent a large portion of this afternoon staring at Michael Fassbender’s cock. I saw more of that cock than I ever wanted to. Seriously, I could model it in plastacine and post a picture of it on the Internet. Yep, this has been a weird one alright.

    Review of “Shame” coming soon.

  71. Did anybody have a problem with lack of sound effects during the fight scenes. I never really felt any of those punches or kicks because they were made to sound like what punches and kicks really sound like. When I see a movie, especially an action film, I find sound effects very important and don’t want them to be ultra-realistic.

  72. AF: Soderbergh definitely wasn’t going to give audiences something as emotionally engaged as KILL BILL. That’s just not his thing. I don’t have any problem with the impersonal aspect of his films. But I think there was something overly familiar about HAYWIRE that kept it from being as good as THE LIMEY or OUT OF SIGHT. I don’t think it’s Carano’s fault; Sasha Grey was plenty compelling in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, and I think Carano is a better performer than Grey. I don’t know. Maybe the script was rushed. Maybe McGreggor (in my opinion the weakest link in the film) could never be as compelling as Peter Fonda.

    The sound design worked for me. I’m so tired of typical Hollywood fight sounds. UNDERWORLD 4 might as well have put the old BATMAN thwacks and bops up on the screen during the fights.

    Paul: My mistake on your smooth jazz comparison. I didn’t read your post properly. For what it’s worth, anything Sting did with Branford Marsalis is smooth jazz, like “Consider Me Gone” or “Englishman in New York.” His stuff with the Police is faux reggae.

  73. Mouth:

    Did you just say that Hedwig and the Angry Inch isn’t meta? Because, that’s a movie where the male-to-female transsexual rock star has a boyfriend who is actually played by a girl under heavy makeup, and the film never makes it overt.

    Also, the last 20 minutes are entirely visual representations of Hedwig’s rebirth. Also, it’s a gay-themed rock musical about Plato’s Symposium. And there are several overt Brechtian moments.

    Which parts of Hedwig *aren’t* meta?

  74. No, I didn’t say that. Those words appear in the same post above, but no. HEDWIG is everything to me, and I have come to love it more with further study of the “meta” elements (as you obviously have as well), but it’s not didactic, not striving to be everything to everyone (which was the worst aspect of the end of JCM’s SHORTBUS). And I love it because it originates from John Cameron Mitchell & Stephen Trask and makes it to our senses without editorial-artistic compromise.

    The only dubiously conventional part of HEDWIG seems to be the opening credits music, but then later we realize that a theme of being out of place in the midst of national unifications makes that song choice perfect. Plus, I’ll never complain about hearing a rockin pro-America tune.

    H&TAI has no overt influences or nods to previous films. The narrative is self-contained, other than references to ancient gods & rock gods. It is not merely a “genre film,” but it is just as efficient as one. This is why, as in my previous post, I compare it to other such movies I enjoy.

  75. The soundtrack is more Roy Bud then Lalo.

  76. ActionFest tix/badges on sale tomorrow. Gina Carano will be there to be awarded the “Chick Norris” somethingsumthin. Film lineup still not announced.

    http://actionfest.com/?p=1920

  77. Saw this yesterday. Wasn’t expecting much, seeing as how Soderbergh’s films usually bore the shit out of me, but was hoping I would get a kick out of the cast and maybe enjoy one or two of the fights.

    In the end there were three things that I enjoyed:

    1) Gina Carano. Her acting was actually way better than I was expecting and I would enjoy seeing her in other action movies. Just read today that she’s probably going to be in Fast Six, hope they let her do some punching and not just racing.

    2) The fight with Fassbender. Pretty brutal and the only fight in the film that got me excited. Like someone said above I think what let me down in the other fights was the sound, or lack thereof. It’s may be more realistic this way, but I wanted a bit more energy. Obviously I applaud the idea of shooting fights clearly, but the way they were done here made them feel too sedated for my liking.

    3) The great Bill Paxton.

    Besides those things it was a pretty dull film with an uninteresting story, imho. I don’t care that it was simplistic or that they didn’t explain much about Carano’s character, but this was so thin it could barely hold my attention. Come on, at least give me a strong villain. Maybe if they would’ve cast Fassbender as Kenneth… He at least looked like he could handle himself in a fight against Carano.

  78. Finally saw it, liked alot about it. It looks great, music is fun, excellent filmatism, etc.. The fights are awesome, but at the end of the day they’re about 4 minutes out of a 90 minute movie that feels a lot longer. Soderbergh just couldn’t hold my attention with the uninvolving plot, and that’s coming from someone who LOVES Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience.

    Carano does have excellent screen presence and physicality; I even thought her supposed “awkward/robotic” line readings actually worked as character-building moments. Btw, after pinning that bad guy to the floor with the gate in Barcelona, did she give him the finger while she was dialing her cohorts on the phone? If so, that was awesome and had more personality than the rest of the movie.

    Btw, any thoughts about the fact that her character slept with both McGregor and Tatum? It’s just a minor detail, but I didn’t expect it in a movie like this and wasn’t quite sure what they were trying to say, if anything. (Was it a challenge to double standards by showing her being promiscuous like a female James Bond? Or were they saying something else since they both end up trying to kill her?)

    Anyways, for some reason Haywire reminds me of a less successful The Hunted (Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro one, not Christopher Lambert one) – it’s also 90 minutes, lean and pared down, and is centered on the naturalistic, un-Hollywood fight scenes (I think the sound fx are muted in The Hunted too). I only wish it were as good as that one.

  79. My favorite part about the fact that she nailed both of them (and yeah, I think that’s the point. Boy spies require tribute in the form of female conquests, so why can’t the ladies do likewise? I don’t think the movie ever judged her for it. The motive, as McGregor says, is always money.) is when her father says that no, she never mentioned Ewan McGregor’s character to him and Tatum gives this private little smirk. Like, “Ha ha, you dated her for a year, probably took her out to dinner and bought her flowers and shit, and you’re no further along than I am, chump.” It was one of the character’s endearing dude moments, like when he tried to order a beer for breakfast (although that may have just been to sell his hangover act, if it was in fact an act).

  80. Unless my intel is wrong, this is now playing on Netflix Instant.

  81. It is. The studio behind it has a deal with Netflix for Pay TV rights.

  82. Tony Jaa has never been a good actor in my book.

  83. Anyone else catch this week’s ALMOST HUMAN guest starring Gina Carrano? Great episode of a good show and they really made the most of her, pretty much playing a female Terminator and kicking everyone’s ass, and even getting a “Just How Badass Is She?” scene:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPPoM0g5CqM

  84. I saw it, Stu, and I agree. I would’ve loved more of her, but with the time and rating constraints, I thought they did a good job utilizing her.

  85. She was surprisingly good in Almost Human, only because she was playing a blank, but physically capable, robot. I thought she was absolutely awful in Haywire, actually having to talk and all, and behave like a human. I don’t know why i never commented on it before, but this is one of the least enjoyable films i have ever seen in the cinema. I watched it in Dublin and the only thing anyone in the audience seemed to find remotely interesting was that certain scenes took place a couple of streets away from where we were watching it. When we were walking out of the screening at the end of the film, all i could hear was “Wow, that was shite”. I’m genuinely surprised people on here liked it so much, it was really horribly bad. Soderbergh, after this and Che Part 2, is dead to me, although Behind the Candelabra was enjoyable, apart from the totally uncalled for and horrific plastic surgery scenes. Oh, also, i thought that the worst thing about this whole mess was David Holmes’ intrusive score blaring all the time, except during the fights. Hated it, hated the film, hated Carano’s acting.

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