DARLINGS! Welcome to another Friday of fangirling with yers truly!
I know. Shit has been shitty this week. But I need you to remember that in this crapfest, as in anything worth fighting for, we will face losses. We will lose battles. So you learn to love the fight, in all its forms, because what you’re doing is good, and it’s important, and it’s a beacon for so many people. And though you may not see results today or tomorrow, or maybe even for a while, you are part of something big and something with moments of great beauty in addition to what I know you’re feeling are setbacks.
It’s okay to take some time to grieve the losses, to be pissed off, to take a break from the fray. The rest of us will spell you while you do that. Then get right back in and do what works for you in terms of getting active and building a movement and infrastructure. After all, failure isn’t the falling down. It’s the staying down.
So if you’re in that kind of moment, where you’re regrouping, okay. Let’s talk about one of my sleeper hit movies. That is, a movie that is one of my go-tos when I’m feeling the need for a badass woman to do some ass-kicking. Why, yes. I’ve been feeling that way lately. Funny you should notice.
So Haywire is a 2011 thriller starring mixed martial arts ass-kicker Gina Carano. The film has a few other folks you may recognize: Channing Tatum, Ewan MacGregor, Michael Douglas, and Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, and Antonio Banderas.
Carano, though, is why I watch this film. Duh. Here is a photo to explain that, in case my words don’t fully convey my feelings on this matter:
As I mentioned, Carano is a mixed martial arts fighter who got her start in Muay Thai (kickboxing). She did that for a few years, and actually debuted as an actress in the 2005 cult film Ring Girls, based on true events in which five American women in Las Vegas take on the challenge of fighting the best female Muay Thai fighters in the world. She had a couple other parts before Haywire, including one in the street-fighting film Blood and Bone (2009), the same year she landed the lead role in Haywire.
You may know her from some other films since then, like Deadpool (2016), in which she played villain Angel Dust and as Riley Hicks in Fast and Furious 6. Also, rumor has it that she’s going to play comic book badass Avengelyne (a fallen angel who now fights the forces of evil). Carano announced in 2013 that she and one of Avengelyne’s creators, Rob Liefeld, were working on a screen adaptation. Last November, Paramount purchased the film rights, so stay tuned, friends. Hopefully they’ll stick with Carano as the lead.
Back to Haywire. Carano plays Mallory Kane, a Marine (why people say “former” Marine is beyond me; once a Marine, always a Marine) who now works for a contract company that the government hires to do some of its dirty work. Like black ops stuff.
The film opens in upstate New York. It’s winter. Carano is watching a diner from a vantage point across the road from it, and she decides to go inside, where she’s apparently meeting with someone. Sure enough, someone arrives, and it’s Aaron (Channing Tatum), who worked black ops with her. But from their short, stilted convo, things are clearly not quite right between them and you get the sense that Mallory has been on the run, and that Aaron is supposed to bring her in.
She ain’t havin’ any of that shit, though, and within, like, five minutes of the movie’s start, she and Aaron are whaling on each other. Mallory takes him down then gets one of the other diner patrons — Scott — to take her to his car. She drives and he patches her up, freaking out as one would be in a situation like that. She, however, gets him to calm down.
Here. The fight scene with Aaron (Tatum):
That should give you a sense of how she’s gonna roll. In the car, she starts telling Scott what’s going on, making him an insurance policy of sorts as she drives, knowing someone’s coming for her and if she dies or gets captured, Scott will be able to at least tell her story to legit authorities.
So the story is told in flashback, because in present time she’s telling Scott what happened to bring her to this point, to upstate New York, from jobs she was doing in Europe.
We learn, from the flashbacks, that she was on a job in which she and her team had to rescue a Chinese national being held hostage in Barcelona. She completes the job, and decides she’s kind of over it, and she’s not sure she’s feelin’ the love anymore for this kind of work. But she reluctantly ends up agreeing to take another job, in which she poses as the lady half of a heterosexual power couple, paired with Michael Fassbender, who is with MI6. Basically, she’s there as eye and arm candy for the MI6 guy who needs to go to a party at some fancy schmancy estate in the UK somewhere to meet with a contact.
Or so she thinks…while at this party, she realizes she’s totes being set up, but she’s not quite sure what for or what’s up, and she has to go on the run to clear her name and, of course, open a can of revenge. And I love me a fugitive movie. After we have these flashbacks, we go back into real time with Scott, and she has to escape a roadblock and then she heads to New Mexico, where her dad (Bill Paxton) is so she can regroup. And get that can of revenge/whup-ass ready to go.
Reasons I dig this movie:
1. Hello. Gina Carano (or, was I not clear on that earlier?). She no longer fights competitively, but her fight scenes are always well choreographed because HELLO she is an actual fighter. I like her as an action hero, too, because she’s believable and does a solid job with the characters she plays. It is a damn travesty that she hasn’t been tapped for more leading roles in action films. But that’s a whole other discussion, isn’t it, kids, about women not being tapped for action roles…AHEM. Anyway.
2. Nice pacing and plot development. In the beginning, you’re going to feel like you got dropped right into the middle of some kind of conspiracy and you’re not sure quite what’s going on, but as she lays it out to Scott and the flashbacks start, then you get a sense of who she is and what she does. I will say that in some ways, the plot is a little weak and you’re not quite sure what exactly the set-up is all about ’til later, but I’m able to forgive it because, like I said, I enjoy a fun fugitive thriller.
3. Strong supporting characters/actors. And they’re all dudes. It’s interesting, because she’s basically the only woman in this film but she carries it, and the dudes are truly supporting cast, and not mainliners. Even Michael Douglas, who plays some government agent flack, can’t overshadow her role in this and the character of Mallory Kane. I mean, the guys I listed above are power dudes in Hollywood, and here’s Carano pulling her weight and basically driving the plot. Oh, and beating some of them up.
4. Lack of special effects. What? Is Andi smoking something (and where can I get it)? Who the hell doesn’t like special effects? WTF is wrong with you? I’ll tell you why I enjoyed that here. The strength of this movie relies on the plot and the characters and on the ability of Carano’s Kane to be all badass in tightly choreographed fight scenes. If you’ve watched the Bourne movies (especially the first couple with Matt Damon), this is that kind of movie. Not many special effects, just the focus on Bourne and his abilities to survive while on the run. I really wish somebody would do a series like that with Carano in the lead role because she would OWN it.
So I enjoyed the focus on people, dialogue, camera angles, and choreography. This was kind of a throwback film, to 60s and 70s spy thrillers, in which the tension was generated by the plot and character interaction. That’s the kind of film this is, and it works. Also, note the music. The soundtrack was well-done. It’s instrumental, like in the Bourne films, and it’s kind of a Mission: Impossible style sort of thriller-jazz thing going on, which makes this kind of a stylish film. Think of the soundtracks to the Oceans 11, 12, etc. Like that.
5. Badass woman, kicking ass and taking names. I also enjoyed the fact that she’s a team leader and that the guys don’t give her shit or act out for being a woman. They respect her abilities and go with it, and jeeziz gawd that’s so refreshing in an action film in which a woman plays the lead role and kicks ass and takes names. It’s probably because in terms of the film and their characters, they’ve worked together in the past and they share that kind of military-style camaraderie — whatever it is, I appreciate it because it is so tired, listening to guys talk about how women can’t do shit and blah blah blah and then the badass woman action hero has to kick their asses for being sexist and misogynist and not simply because they’re part of a conspiracy against her.
6. Fight scenes. Damn. Just…damn. This film has several frenetic fights between Carano and various dudes and they’re so well-done that you don’t realize the amount of work that goes into properly choreographing such a scene and the control that the actors have to have over their bodies and movements. Carano did her own stunts (because of course she did!). Here’s a cool breakdown of one of the fight scenes (here between Carano and Michael Fassbender), with some voiceover and explanations by film programmer, podcaster, and writer Kiva Reardon:
It’s important, I think, in a film like this especially, to have well-done fight scenes to lend authenticity to the characters and the tension. And here, the actors NAILED IT.
In the con category — the plot is, like I said, a little thin. You don’t really find out what’s up with this conspiracy and the reasons the company wants her dead seem weak. So there are some loose ends in this thing, and you’ll probably notice them, but it’s 90 minutes of watching a strong female lead on the run who ends up being successful in her endeavor (and who does some awesome ass-kicking). And I can get behind that. And no, there’s no queer rep in this film, but so what? When I first saw it in the theaters, I wasn’t looking for it because it didn’t bill itself that way, and I got what I expected. A cool badass woman starring in kind of a light fugitive thriller. No deep analysis of anything, really, but sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
So if you’re looking for a bit of an escape, with some great fight scenes and good tension (and did I mention Gina Carano?), Haywire might be worth your time. It’s available on DVD via Netflix (or you can buy the DVD from wherever) or you can buy to stream via Amazon Prime.
Happy watching, and may The Force be with you.