Mama Said Knock You Out
Steven Soderbergh’s latest film about a black ops, ex-marine (Mallory) who is betrayed and is forced to spend the rest of the movie unraveling the secret plot to end her life was certainly not at the top of my list of must see movies. In fact, I usually spend this time each year trying to catch up on the movies I missed that will be highlighted at the Oscars, but tonight was ushered in on the wings of whim and I rarely say ‘No’ to whim.
At the opening scene of the movie, my instinctual bracing for cheesy one-liners and textbook femme fatale scenarios that have riddled most action movies, especially ones with a leading lady, began to prepare myself for a few eye rolls. As the movie played on, I slowly gave it some slack and found myself in a different kind of action movie. Was it the gradual revealing of characters’ motives that help take the edge off things? Was it the raw brawling and 70’s chase-scene music? or was it Antonio Banderas and his peppered beard? As I write this; I am still unsure.
For a movie that stars a relatively unknown actress (Gina Carano as Mallory), it quickly becomes a Caddyshack of sorts with a bevy of talented actors to flesh out the story of greed, money, and office politics (What else is there?). Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum all pony up and offer themselves as solid accoutrements to the balanced tale of this Tasmanian devil with kung fu legs. Soderbergh paints this story with an Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack and a lingering camera that hangs onto scenes like the editor forgot there were other angles that were probably shot. The plot is familiar yet the respect given to both the actors and the audience is unexpected and therefore feels like a breath of fresh air. People who participate in hand to hand combat encounters leave with blood on them, broken limbs and bruised faces (Taking notes Hollywood?). The camera stays calm, as if watching the movie with you, while what appears to be candid combat is played out before you. Big credit to the choreographer for that.
I did not care much for Ewan McGregor’s fighting ability as Soderberg appears to use the practice take of Ewan and decided to throw it in the final cut (No offense Ewan. You are still a great actor. You just can’t seem to fake being on the wrong end of a punch that well). The end credits roll and Ewan’s fighting and one Mallory taunt was all I wished was excluded from my theater going experience. Gina does a great job at being fierce and Michael Douglas…well…Michael Douglas is the man. Never once did they throw Mallory in a skimpy outfit or have her play a damsel in distress (Thank God). The movie is patient as frantic scenes are unfolding; watching grown men punch a woman in the face on multiple occasions still makes me uneasy, but Gina owned that role and is a credit to the short list of kick-ass women who I feel make the Action genre a great one to watch. Yeah, I’m looking at you Milla Jovovich and Kate Beckinsale.
Wherever Gina Carano is right now (probably kicking through a brick wall for practice), we should all know the world is that much safer with her in it. Give Haywire a go and you might be pleasantly surprised what an action flick can be with a little story and a little bit of womanly biceps to punch your expectations out the window. GIRL POWER!!!