Gina Carano is a female MMA fighter. That stands for Mixed Martial Arts. She is known in the mainstream as “Crush” on the revamp of American Gladiators (yeah, I kind of forgot they revamped it too). Anyways, I assume someone thought it would be a good idea to put her as the lead in a movie.
It doesn’t really work, but luckily she has an A-list cast (that are relegated to minimal roles) to help the audience forget all about her lack of acting skills.
What works? The fight scenes are pretty cool (although often too short to be satisfying) and they have a very The Bourne Identity feeling to them. There’s no music over (most) of the fight scenes, so it’s very intense and visceral. Steven Soderbergh (who also directed the Oceans 11/12/13 films) takes the helm here and applies some of his same visual stylings. Some scenes are black in white, the music is kind of retro, and the cuts are quick. However, the Oceans films succeeded in ways that Haywire didn’t.
There are a lot of A-list actors in this film and some of them are forgettable but a few manage to actually add to the film. Channing Tatum surprisingly was a highlight for me. He has a fight scene with Carano at the very beginning of the film and it was probably the best fight scene in the movie. I’m having an internal debate on what I thought of Ewan McGregor. My first inclination was that he was so-so, but as I thought, he was unlike any other version of Ewan McGregor that I’ve seen. He wasn’t especially charming, he wasn’t particularly badass, he wasn’t British (he had a pretty strange American accent)… So in retrospect, he stretched himself more than Banderas, Douglas, and some of the other A-listers here.
People are looking to Gina Carano to hold this movie and that’s a mistake. BUT she does manage to kick ass and take names. Even though she destroys almost every guy she runs into, I still felt a little disturbed watching as she took a few punches. Sure, she just killed like four dudes, but I still couldn’t handle her getting slammed into a mirror. I won’t say she supports this movie, but she does what she was brought on to do. More about this in the “What doesn’t work?” section which begins …now.
What doesn’t work?
Oh let me count the ways.
Let’s continue talking about Gina Carano. Yes, she’s a fighter, but she had zero sex appeal and this movie tried to beat you over the head with how beautiful/sexy/mesmerizing she was and it felt forced. They digitally altered her voice to drop it to a lower register, so she had this very mannish voice. She had bruises and cuts for most of the movie. And she had zero charisma. They had a few lines that were (maybe) intended to add some humor but she couldn’t pull them off. Even when she donned an evening dress, she looked extremely uncomfortable in it. She’d be perfect for any non-speaking bodyguard role but she shouldn’t be the emotional center of a film.
I’ve read a few reviews that applauded the simple and straightforward narrative here, sometimes even calling it a classic narrative. I disagree. Nothing really happened til halfway through the movie. Before that, I had no idea what was happening. She went on a few missions and I still had no idea what she was doing there, who she reported to (it seemed like there were fifty people above her in the chain of command), and I was just generally lost. It all got resolved in the end with some shoe-horned exposition, but the confusion drew me out of the story, not into it.
The way the movie was framed didn’t make sense at all either. Throughout the movie, we follow Carano as she basically carjacks this poor guy and drives across upstate New York. She tells him the entire story of how she got there, going back to all of her misadventures. 1.) She doesn’t know this guy. 2.) She is not an inherently trusting person, so she wouldn’t tell a stranger her deep dark secrets. 3.) She carjacked him. 4.) This guy ends up having zero effect on the story and so all of her confessions end up meaningless and serve only as a way for us to learn the story. The only upside is that this schmoe is played by Michael Angarano, who was the male lead in Sky High, probably my favorite “superheroes-in-high-school” movie. But now he’s all grown up and has stubble and everything!
Let’s talk fight scenes. They are too short and too few. That is Gina Carano’s only strength here and it’s vastly underutilized. And the fight scenes are generally bland and uninventive. If it wasn’t a woman, this movie wouldn’t have even made it to theaters. It’d be a straight-to-Netflix action movie that probably would have cover art that looked like some other movie to confuse you (like Chop Kick Panda, now streaming on NetFlix). But since it’s a woman, it somehow makes this movie unique. But the fighting is infrequent and unsatisfactory. The final showdown is one of the most anticlimactic fights in the history of cinema. I just titled my head and mouthed “What…?” during it.
It’s generic and it’s only in theaters because it has a woman in the lead role and she kicks some ass. Unfortunately Carano isn’t a strong enough actress to even pull off being convincing in a role that was probably made for her. The script is thrown together and the budget (for all of these huge names to support her) is probably astronomical and downright unfortunate. If you’re content with subpar (even within movies like this) and might appreciate it for what it does bring to the table, maybe you’ll enjoy. I, though, wouldn’t recommend it.