I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

In the Blood

tn_inthebloodI heard so much trash talked about Gina Carano vehicle #2, IN THE BLOOD, that I was scared off from watching it on VOD. And it’s true that there’s plenty wrong with it, especially as a followup to Steve Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE.

#1 problem for alot of people: director John Stockwell (UNDER COVER, BLUE CRUSH) isn’t as meticulous about massaging a performance out of veteran fighter, recent actor Carano as Soderbergh was, so there are some pretty stiff line readings. In one scene she even says she’s from “Cuh-NECK-ticut,” not a regionally accurate pronunciation in my opinion. But as a fan of Dennis Rodman, Brian Bosworth, early Van Damme, Daniel Bernhardt, Gary Daniels, Olivier Gruner, early Dolph, etc. this is not a problem to me at all, and seems like kind of a complaint for action movie lightweights.

The main complaint for people of our ilk, that will go unnoticed by normal people, is that the fights are short and over-edited. The hits feel hard, the camera’s not that shaky and most of the framing is okay, but it’s another one hit = one cut movie. Why directors don’t think it’s worth the effort to stage a bunch of moves – or shit, at least two moves – in a row is beyond me, especially since Stockwell is on the public record as having seen and enjoyed HAYWIRE. He seems to take some influence in how to portray Carano as a scary asskicker (even re-using the gag where she calls her betrayer on the guy she just killed’s phone), but little in the clean-as-a-whistle action filmatism that is HAYWIRE’s bread and butter.

mp_inthebloodStill, I enjoyed IN THE BLOOD. It’s a pretty well put together rehash of a standard tough guy type of plot – guy goes on honeymoon in a foreign country, his wife disappears, he has to solve the mystery of what happened and beat up or kill everybody who gets in his way – except the genders are swapped. And that’s novel enough to raise it above others of its type.

Carano plays Ava a gal of unspecified occupation I believe but with a horrible past, trained to fight and kill by her reprobate father (AVATAR‘s Stephen Lang in flashbacks with different actress Paloma Louvat). Now she’s straightened her life out and she’s marrying a fellow ex-junkie (Cam Gigandet) from a rich family. It’s a storybook rich person wedding thanks to disapproving father Treat Williams (THE SUBSTITUTE 2-3), then they go for a beautiful honeymoon on a resort island off of Puerto Rico, the perfect spot for smiley, cuddly montages on beaches, in helicopters, at outdoor bars, on ziplines. But then the husband disappears and she has to find out what happened so she can rescue and/or avenge him.

She’s actually kinda like a Seagal character. She makes no apologies for going overboard in her violence. Her dark past is abuse/criminal instead of black ops, but she has a similar Terminator quality, she never loses a fight, never seems in danger of losing. She beats people with bats, chokes, shoots, strips, hog ties, tortures for information. She threateningly recites factoids about which organs are stabbable and what will happen afterwards. She storms into places and threatens people (best one: guy at zipline place who she drags onto the line front of two tourists). Even before the real trouble starts, when Danny Trejo (MARKED FOR DEATH, URBAN JUSTICE, MACHETE, FORCE OF EXECUTION) tries to start a fight with her husband on a dance floor, she’s immediately throwing bottles at heads and crushing glasses in faces. (That’s the best fight, despite the strobelight.)

She’s not as indestructible as Seagal, she does get injured, but the one that shows the most is from dislocating her own thumb to get out of handcuffs. At one point she does get shot in the back, but doesn’t even notice until her husband points it out after a car chase. “You’ve been shot, right?”

What?” she says, sounding more annoyed than worried.

I really enjoy seeing a woman do this type of stuff, especially a woman with some badass credibility. I’m willing to suspend the ol’ disbelief for a petite stickbug of an actress who looks more like a model than a scrapper, but it’s more fun to see one of these starring a lady with some woman on her, some hips to toss people over, some arms to wrap around windpipes. It’s not just better for fights but also for a well staged scene like the one where a not-quite-innocent hospital employee is pulling into the gate and doesn’t notice Carano’s angry face swimming up like Jaws in the rear-view.

I don’t think this was intentional, but I noticed the high-def photography picked up some bruises on her skin under her pretty wedding dress. ‘Cause she’s legit.

Equally important: Gigandet gets the damsel in distress role. He’s mostly prone and helpless, led to safety if not literally carried. He’s given a gun and contributes one ambush stomping of an underling, just like a kidnapped wife or daughter character would do. I also like the meta-ness of real life mixed martial artist Carano having to rescue an actor who pretended to be one in NEVER BACK DOWN.

To be fair, the bad guy (Amaury Nolasco from 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS) does seem to consider both of them a threat when he declares “You two motherfuckers are crazy!” before giving up and jumping out of their moving vehicle.

Also, I should point out that there is a part where she gets emotional and cries and shit. It’s like I said in my review of Zoe Bell in RAZE, I’m torn between whether it’s unfair that female action characters usually have to do that scene and men don’t, or if it gives her more depth. This is a traditional badass revenge story where it’s not needed, the emotion can all be internal. But she does do well with the scene, it deals with her feelings about being an ex-addict, and helps her develop a sweet friendship with Manny (Ismael Cruz Cordova), a local who not only shows her around but also gives her a pep talk.

On the one hand, not that easy to make out. On the other hand, clearly pretty awesome.
On the one hand, not that easy to make out. On the other hand, clearly pretty awesome.

The script is by James Robert Johnson (JOY RIDE 2, THE HOWLING: REBORN) and Bennett Yellin (DUMB & DUMBER). I’m sure most people wouldn’t consider it a good script, but I think it’s a solid version of a formula with some nice flair here and there. For example I like the corny turn at the end where street kids form a mob to help her escape, like a good guy version of the HOSTEL kids, or like human Ewoks. Also, Trejo initially seems to be a worthless cameo but then gets a hell of a last scene. He saves the day, but not by being heroic.

If you’re wondering, Luis Guzman actually has a major part as the not-necessarily-trustworthy police chief Carano keeps hassling about her missing husband.

Director Stockwell did a horror movie about 8 years ago called TURISTAS, which has alot of similarities to this one. Both have naturalistic digital video depicting American tourists in over their heads when their tropical vacations in a country where they don’t speak the language run into black market medical nightmares. In fact, that one kind of helps this one tell its story because it sets you up to be extra suspicious when a seemingly friendly local approaches them at a beach front bar.

I couldn’t finish the last Stockwell action movie I rented, CAT RUN (part 2 coming soon), so IN THE BLOOD restores my image of him as an above average journeyman type. He peppers the movie with unexpectedly interesting, maybe improvisational details, especially in the last chunk where they end up hiding in an impoverished neighborhood while the bad guy storms into houses waving guns and bills and haranguing people about where “the gringos” are. The extras seem like they gotta be locals and the locations (in Puerto Rico I believe) have alot of character. I like the kids dancing to music blasting from a truck, the family blankly watching TV and barely acknowledging the invading gunmen, the lady putting down her mini-Bible to watch out the window after she hears Carano slam somebody against the corrugated metal siding of her home.

So, you know, this has some of the problems we all hate from modern action, but in my opinion it’s more fun than your average DTV/VOD business. I’ll take some more of these please.

acr_intheblood

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 Thursday, June 5th, 2014 at 6:26 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. 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.

34 Responses to “In the Blood”

  1. Oof. Man I read a lot of reviews that just panned this movie, but then I come to Vern’s and he’s telling me to just go ahead and rent it. Okay then.

    Also, hope you have plans to see EDGE OF TOMORROW because it’s a surprisingly badass movie.

  2. It’s totally worth a rental. My problem is I saw it in its limited theatrical run and Carano’s big nightclub fight seemed rather incoherent on the big screen, especially since it’s intercut with perspectives from cell phone and security camera video.
    Now, I still think about this film from time to time, so it wasn’t a waste of my time. It has merit, as Vern mentioned, but I still think of it as a disappointment overall thanks to the high bar of HAYWIRE. To me, the casting felt like they were trying to buffer Carano with better actors, except with B-squad in place. So instead of Channing Tatum we have Cam Gigandet, Michael Douglas swapped out with Treat Williams, and Antonio Banderas with…I don’t know, Luis Guzman? Anyway, I was less enamored with the concept of a gender-swapped MAN ON FIRE, though I give it credit for contriving a reason Carano is so well-versed in administering pain that doesn’t involve being ex-CIA or Special Forces. It’s no more ridiculous than the reasons they gave for Van Damme’s accent in various movies, though her past life being raised by a paranoid criminal lowlife felt poorly integrated, like something done in reshoots.
    For my money, the most enjoyable DTV action film I saw this past spring with ENEMIES CLOSER.

  3. Maybe women crying in these movies is the female version of the badass juxtaposition. She can cry & still jump up, clamp her thighs around your head & take you down. It wouldn’t be much of a juxtaposition just to have her cooking or playing the piano, or something that would come off as a juxtaposition if she was a man.

  4. MaggieMay — and let’s not forget, lest we view crying as a “woman thing,” that Gary Cooper cries in HIGH NOON. But I get what you’re saying, and actually it’s kinda a really interesting point. Lots of things that would come across as badass juxtaposition in a man (nursing an injured kitten back to health, knowing all the words to all the songs in “Rent”) wouldn’t seem as notable in a woman, since we associate femininity with empathy and creativity. So we gotta go the extra mile to give Gina Carano something to make her seem vulnerable but not stereotypical.

    That probably says a lot about culture and gender stereotypes, actually. Hopefully, 20 years from now when there are tons of female action heroes, we’ll have a whole new set of genre expectations.

  5. Awesome, I’m glad to hear this is good. I loved Into the Blue, really underrated flick and one of Walker’s best. I guess this is a spiritual sequel, at least as far as the title goes. Cat Run was disappointing to me, it’s all kinds of crazy the way I like but strangely flat. I haven’t seen his others, I gotta catch up, mainly with Turistas and Dark Tide.

  6. Female Badass Juxtaposition. Holy shit. This concept needs rumination.

    First of all, is it even necessary that a female ‘badass’ needs to have a juxtaposition? Assuming that the essence of a woman is sensitivity, beauty etc (as Mr S pointed out), why would we need to see a ‘softer’ side to her? I think it’s a cinematic given that we would already think she is a badass because what she’s doing goes against her ‘essence’. But when it’s Sly or Seagal we automatically associate them with ‘strength’ based on the assumption that the masculine essence is strong, or brave, or adventurous etc. And because they throw people through windows and shit. In which case a juxtaposition is necessary to show they have a heart.

    A ‘badass’ female character like Bridget Fonda’s assassin in THE ASSASSIN aka POINT OF NO RETURN aka I WANT TO BONE BRIDGET SO BAD is notable because she’s the female ‘badass’ in damaged form, already a junkie, thief and cop-killer, taken under the wing of a government agency who want to shape her fucked-up-ness into something they can control and use for their benefit, to turn her into Hit-Girl. They change her from Killer Junkie into Legitimate Secret Government Killer. But she kicks against these pricks all the way because she doesn’t want to be the same person that she was. It’s like a ‘reverse’ juxtaposition that she wants to have a life she never had and be free from killing.

  7. Its being released Theatrically here in Singapore this week.

  8. I too am rooting for Carano to make a career as something other than novelty girl with muscles.

  9. Proud to be featured on the DVD box for this one!

    And I actually liked it, which not every quote whore can say.

    -The location – Great, diverse, lively.
    -The zipline stuff, which Stockwell seems to shoot handheld… Jesus Christ, I am now never getting on a zipline.
    -I actually found Luis Guzman’s role to be pretty interesting. He’s clearly a crooked cop, but the issue is that he’s also been hands-off, so it’s never bothered him morally. Now he’s got this woman who can stay alive and kick ass, but also grieves for her husband, and he’s torn between helping just one person, and keeping business as usual, away from his family. I think another actor would have played this guy as obviously evil, but Guzman gives him a lot of moral dimension.
    -Also, Carano. Girl’s a star. The best part of the fights was each male combatant slowly realizing that Carano was for real, and was going to smash every single one of their bones.

    I can see how someone didn’t like CAT RUN, but I kind of liked that one too for how dumb, derivative and ridiculous it really was. CAT RUN is the very essence of Spike TV at 3:30 AM. I couldn’t hate it’s straightforward obnoxiousness.

  10. Maybe another form of female juxtaposition would be mothering. I was thinking of two of the most badass female action figures – Ripley and Sarah Connor. I was thinking how they didn’t cry in their penultimate performances in ALIENS and T2. Then I realized, though, that they were both mother figures. Maybe they don’t have to cry to show their soft sides if they go Mama Bear, instead.

  11. This review reminded me that I still haven’t seen HAYWIRE. Now I don’t know if I should see this one first since it has the more amateur action filmatism. It will set me up for Soderbergh’s take on the genre pretty well through escalation.

    On another note I still want to see Cyborg in a CYBORG remake.

  12. Yeah, Badass women should just get a free pass when it comes to juxtaposition. The simple fact that they are rising to an occasion like Ripley going Rambo on the Alien Queen’s ass doesn’t need any explanation. She’s a woman. Tick. She has maternal instincts. Tick. She’s a survivalist. She’s outlived most of the men, and the Android. Let’s enjoy watching her tear the Alien Queen a new a-hole.

  13. On the subject of “female badass juxtaposition”, I wonder if we aren’t overthinking it a little — male badasses have little touches to indicate a thread of vulnerability beneath their tough exterior — a Gina Carano character might not necessarily need to do anything different. It’s apparent she’s a badass immediately, so maybe there’s nothing wrong with giving her the exact same kinda juxtaposition a man would get; she can play jazz piano or hates puppy abuse or whatever. It might be a little different with a female character who didn’t initially read like such a hardcore ass-kicker, but Carano seems that way right from the start.

    In fact, rather than focusing on juxtaposition, it might be more interesting to try and imagine a female badass who *didn’t* immediately read as tough as Carano does; someone who seems more stereotypically feminine and vulnerable, but then rises to the occasion and fucks some muthafuckas up.

    What I’m saying is, we’ve seen stoic hardasses before; maybe having one who is a woman isn’t really such a reinvention as it might first appear. Maybe the bigger reinvention casting a woman in the hero role allows for is some genuinely NEW action archetypes.

  14. I see your point Mr S, male or female Badass, they’re both candidates for juxtapositionifying. Shit, too many big words in this thread.

    I’m gonna have to watch KILL BILL again tonight to revel in the smorgasbord of female badasses on display. O-Ren Ishi and Psychopathic Tokyo School Girl With Blade Penetration Skills are standouts. Of the two, did you notice only O-Ren Ishi was given a back story? In spite of her being an evil badass, it made her much more sympathetic than School Girl, who got no juxtaposition and comes off as just evil.

  15. for reasons I don’t exactly remember I actually saw TURISTAS in theaters, I remember it being pretty bad, but with enough interesting touches that showed the people who made it gave a crap about they were doing at least, even if they didn’t succeed

    at any rate it was probably the first thing that taught me how rough a place Brazil can be and as that country has risen in world relevance over the 2010s what with hosting the world cup and the Olympics and all, it’s interesting that that movie seemed to be ahead of that curve

    “Of the two, did you notice only O-Ren Ishi was given a back story? In spite of her being an evil badass, it made her much more sympathetic than School Girl, who got no juxtaposition and comes off as just evil.”

    I’ve always assumed that character was sort of an AUDITION homage, so I’m guessing she was molested when she was a kid and now takes glee in murdering people like that pervert guy who hit on her in the bar

  16. I have a NAME, motherfucker. Griff hears me say it in his nightmares when I feed his cartoon kawaii girlfriends the sharp end of a broken bottle

  17. The Original Paul

    June 7th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Broddie – speaking personally, I’ve always been one of “Haywire”‘s biggest critics on this forum, and I still think it’s absolutely worth watching. I don’t think it holds up as a whole, but it has some great fight scenes as well as (in my opinion) some of the best directing Soderbergh has ever done. What I’m getting at here is that I liked it less than most other people here, and I still think it’s worth the time of anybody who’s got even a passing interest in that kind of film. Take that as you will.

    As for “In the Blood”… I don’t know, if it’s on I’ll see it. That’s the best I can say, because the things that didn’t bother Vern in his review sound like the kind of things that probably WOULD bother me.

    And I also kinda hate the “one hit / one shot” school of fight choreography. If you’re going to look to the classics for inspiration, how about we bring back a bit of cartwheel-fu or drunken boxing? I haven’t seen those for a while.

  18. The Original Paul

    June 7th, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    Fight editing, even.

  19. Paul, I see drunken boxing every Friday night.

  20. Quite an achievement when you’ve got four nails attached to a piece of wood lodged in the side of your head. Well done. Say hi to Freddy and Candyman for me.

  21. Jareth Cutestory

    June 7th, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    Paul: Jija Yanin and her crew did some fun drunken fighting in RAGING PHOENIX a few years ago.

  22. Gogo Yubari – deeply sorry I forgot your name luv, are you going to punish me now?

  23. Well, I unabashedly loved GENERICALLY TITLED GINA CARANO VEHICLE. Carano continues to impress by being just the right amount of vulnerability to be relatable, while still being naturally badass enough to believably portray Seagal-level invincibility. I think she’s underrated as an actress. To me, her best skill is that she’s a good listener. Watch her when someone else is speaking. She’s not just waiting for her turn to say a line; she’s really paying attention. She’s present in the scene. You see how the words affect her. That puts you right there with her in a way that a few stiff line readings can’t erase. Her unique blend of humility and ubercompetence really put you on her side, which is what a story like this needs. It keeps the action exciting even when the visuals are hit and miss (although I will defend the use of found footage shots in light of the film’s honeymoon milieu, in which everyone would be recording everything at all times) because you care about her and her mission. It makes the bloody vengeance she doles out far more satisfying when you really want her to win.

    By the way, the fights are better than Vern is letting on, in my opinion. There are no long takes but the hits, even in short shots, have real impact and catharsis.

    Plus, I think it’s great that, except for one little scene involving the “I can’t possibly use the bathroom without your help, idiot henchman” ploy, you could swap the genders and it wouldn’t affect anything at all. It’s taken as a matter of course that, as the protagonist of an action film, she has the power to royally fuck up anyone in her path. It’s not trying to make a point via a clever subversion of action movie tropes; it’s just the way this character is. To me, that’s a step in the right direction for a truly feminist badass cinema.

    And guys, her badass juxtaposition is not that she cries. Male action heroes are allowed to get emotional over their lost loved ones. John McClane cried. Martin Riggs cried. Fucking Rambo cried. That’s not a feminine thing, that’s a human thing. She has a right to have a heart just like her male counterparts without it being written off as a by-product of her being a girl.

    Which reminds me of this: http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/09yfp5/the-broads-must-be-crazy—belittled-women

    No, her badass juxtaposition is not that she has emotions. It’s that she’s afraid of heights. It’s no different than Indiana Jones hating snakes or Detective Jack Blackjack having a phobia for the color white. And just like them, she overcomes it when the situation calls for it. Because she’s not a female badass–she’s a badass, full stop.

  24. Oh, and Connecticut represent! As far as I know, Carano’s character is the first cinematic badass to hail from my state of origin, which gets unfairly stereotyped as the land of yacht clubs and vacation homes for old money millionaires. Props to the screenwriter for making her hail from Bridgeport, a total toilet of a town that consistently ranks in the top ten most dangerous cities in America. That’s real CT cred right there.

  25. Advanced Lucifer Radio

    June 9th, 2014 at 1:25 am

    Really enjoyed Haywire (despite having sailed by my personal point of tolerance for Ewan McGregor’s dodgy accents some years back) so I might check this out. Incidentally, the cover of the UK Blu Ray of this has Cam Gigandet’s name spelled “Gigadent.”

    Poor guy. I guess he’s yet to impress us over here.

    And I have to be honest, from this side of the pond at least, the whole Conneticut/Connecticut thing seems a little arbitrary (my iPhone spellchecker prefers the latter). I always figured it was a regional pronunciation thing as Vern implies but I’ve even seen it written both ways. WHO’S RIGHT?

  26. It’s always spelled with a ‘c’ in it, it’s the pronunciation that’s in question. I’ve always heard it “cuh-net-uh-kit.” Gina saying “Connect-i-kit” was so weird I thought maybe that was the local pronunciation, but not according to my internet research:

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061206082725AAMED9S

    I’ll defer to Mr. Majestyk for the definitive answer.

  27. Yeah, it’s like Perpugilliam Brown saying she was from BALDimore. It’s BalTimore. Weirder, because presumably Americans would know how to pronounce Connecticut, unless they were eight years old. Like somebody saying they were from Glas-GAOWE.

  28. I personally did not hear her pronounce the silent C, but yeah, nobody from Connecticut (or elsewhere, as far as I know) does that.

  29. Mr M — “She has a right to have a heart just like her male counterparts without it being written off as a by-product of her being a girl.”

    I guess that’s kinda a relevant question here; how significant is it that she is a woman playing the role that a man would stereotypically* play in a movie like this? Is the point that it’s not a big deal, that a woman can play this role equally well, and her gender really isn’t important? Or is the point that this is a deliberate gender role reversal, and really gender is everything here and there wouldn’t even be much point in doing this if it wasn’t?

    I haven’t seen it yet, but Vern’s review points out that the movie is completely generic “except the genders are swapped. And that’s novel enough to raise it above others of its type.” which would sort of lead a person to the latter explanation. I think different feminists could equally argue either point — that the point is genderblind casting OR deliberate undermining of gender roles. But as a badass connoisseur, I think it’s worth wondering which is more valuable. I mean, both are probably valuable in their own way at the right time. But which would we more enjoy seeing explored?

    Personally, I think the idea of diversity in action heroes offers more interesting possibilities than simply casting a gal in a traditionally male role and keeping everything else the same. Obviously we can and should do that too, but I’m more excited about seeing some genuinely new kinds of action characters, who aren’t coming from the same place as all the usual stoic badasses. And I think allowing for more diversity in this genre is a good and legitimate way to try to find some different perspectives than you usually get. I think it might even be empowering in a different kind of way — finding other characters we might relate to a little better than Arnold or Gina Carano ubermenche/menchette who still manage to prove themselves when the die is cast. Men had to wait til 1998 til we got our John McClane; women are still waiting, and they’ll keep waiting as long as we are content to just do the same stories but now with women not that it’s a big deal or anything.

    That said, of course, Gina Carano IS just a stoic badass, so I’m glad she gets movies like this, it would be ridiculous to try and act like she’s not. I just think the question of what women can bring to the action genre is a little more open than merely equal-opportunity asskicking.

    *I say stereotypically because it’s not exactly like this is some kind of stunning reinvention; you’ve got plenty of examples of badass women action heroes going back at least to the 70s, and you can probably find some outlying earlier ones.

  30. Well, she’s not really a stoic badass for most of the movie. She spends the first third of the movie smiling pretty much nonstop, and then she gets pretty hysterical when she first realizes her husband is missing. She behaves like the average person would in a situation where a loved one has disappeared and he or she doesn’t even speak the native language very well so nobody even understands why you’re so upset. It’s only when she has exhausted all legal avenues that she flips the switch and becomes the stone-faced avenger we always knew she could be. The fun is in watching her get to that breaking point.

    That’s the great thing about Carano. She seems so normal, yet we know that she’s not. Most actresses are the opposite. They’re normal people who have to put on a tough face and learn how to pose just right and wear some kind of fetishistic battle gear to pull off “badass motherfucker.” Carano IS a badass motherfucker in real life, so she doesn’t have to put up a front. She KNOWS she can kick your ass. She doesn’t have to convince you by adopting a phony baloney hard-boiled persona. This allows her to play a more multifaceted character. You can see her cry and giggle and get nervous before her wedding and get scared about ziplining and coquettishly beg her husband to take her out dancing, and it doesn’t change the fact that she could break you in half if she wanted to. You can be both a badass and a normal person with fears and foibles like everyone else. That’s a fairly new twist on action movie archetypes: John McClane and John Matrix in one body. The fact that she happens to be a woman is the least of it.

  31. Knox Harrington

    June 11th, 2014 at 5:41 am

    I find that I have more of an emotional connection to a character who seems like they would be relatively normal if it wasn’t for the way circumstances forged them.

    Saoirse Ronan in HANNA is a good example. I love the way Ronan plays her, because even though she is at times very intimidating ad downright terrifying, I still like to believe that she would have been a perfectly well-adjusted girl if it wasn’t for the way she was raised/trained/manufactured.

    With Carano, on the other hand, the badassness seems to be in the blood (thank you). Even though I find her adequately relatable (and very likeable), there is no circumstance in which I will ever believe that she can’t kick ass. Kinda like when Arnie tries to play any character who isn’t capable of obliterating everyone in the room. I guess this stems from the fact that we all know what she used to do for a living.

    Either way, I hope she makes it big. She has screen presence. All she needs is a guardian filmmaker to give her those iconic roles, like James Cameron did for Arnie. God, if only we could convince Soderbergh to come back and make a new Mallory Kane movie every 3 years.

    P.S. Hey, did you guys ever see that Masters of Horror episode directed by Don Coscarelli (and based on a Joe R. Lansdale short story) where the female lead taking on the boogeyman was also trained by her wacko survivalist husband? This review reminded me of that.

  32. Saw this a few days ago Not impressed.

  33. One of the weirdest scenes in this movie is that in which SPOILER ALERT the lovely and innocent (looking) Nurse Leta (Yvette Yates) gets out of her car only to be rear-strangled and neck-broken by our implacable bare-armed MMA babe as she kicks and struggles and cries out fearfully. The scene, though rather choppily edited, is rather sexy in its ruthlessness as the cute nurse’s limp body is quicky lifted into a car trunk, Gina taking an ID card from her victim’s corpse before closing the door. (Apparently she knew just which pocket to reach into.)

    The strangling does include a flashback (presumably) establishing the nurse’s participation in the Big Conspiracy ’cause she’s on desk duty and denies knowledge of Gina’s husband’s whereabouts, though in fact Gina’s character really doesn’t learn about her true ole until after killing her. But if you viewed the scene in isolation it would seem like some female psycho stalking (cue ominous music) and then wordlessly murdering a sweet-looking young Latina nurse, utterly defenseless, before callously disposing of her body. (A male hero certainly couldn’t get away with killing a girl like this, unless she was some fearsome combination of mass murderer and evil martial-arts mistress, and had just run over some puppies.) Of course, the film doesn’t bother to explain why, if Gina is actually looking for her missing husband, she doesn’t try to force some information out of the nurse, instead of immediately silencing her and then going on to torture a doctor, as though only a doctor would do. The whole scene simply seems designed to reveal Gina’s character as brutal and vindictive, even when her violence doesn’t make sense in terms of advancing her cause.

    Perhaps this is why on the IMDB, despite the the stalking/murder way in which the scene is shot, a few folks on the message board for the film asserted that it was a mere sleeperhold or that the nurse might not be dead. (Maybe the neck-cracking sound was missed when the sound was turned down a bit?) Others – in the section wondering whether legal action would be taken against the heroine for her various killings and torturings! — argued that the nurse deserved it.

    The scene: http://www.mediafire.com/download/x31pvj4qvq1dhtr/itb.wmv

  34. I really wanted to like this, but it was a bit of a rough ride. Some nice touches – the villain’s motivations were unexpected, if a little unlikely, and there were some nice, gritty action sequences – but there were just too many bits of sloppy movie-making for me to really get into it. None of the characters, or their relationships, felt particularly well-formed. We knew from the corny, DTV-Seagal-style intro that Carano was supposed to be a total hardcase, but then we were expected to buy her as this giggly newlywed who’s scared of ziplining. I couldn’t. Maybe it could have benefited from a FEMME NIKITA-style opening act where her toughness is explained and expanded on, but this cheapo intro didn’t feel integrated into the movie at all and didn’t actually explain anything.

    And really, what a psycho! It’s as if John McClane not only hunted down and killed Hans and his crew, but also Ellis, Ellis’s secretary, the police chief, the people who delivered Hans his hotdogs earlier in the day, etc. Did she know for sure that the receptionist was part of the plot? Maybe the woman started her shift after the husband was admitted and was just going by what she was told. Even forcing Guzman’s cop to kill himself in the family home with a Stanley knife seemed just a little on the sadistic side.

    There were plenty of other things that grated. How come that Manny guy was allowed to become such a good friend and confidante to her? She beat up, terrorised or killed everybody else who was in his position. I felt no connection or chemistry between them. And I think Trejo really was supposed to be doing a heroic turn at the end.

    I can take goofy amateurism in a Seagal vehicle, but it seemed like this was trying to be a real movie.

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