Sunday, January 22, 2012

Steven Soderbergh: Haywire

Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Haywire, Relativity Media, 2012.

Audience fascination with an ass-kicking woman goes way back to the days of the old French serials, where women of daring and mystery outsmarted, outfought and outsexed their male adversaries. Luc Besson has tapped into this cross-cultural fixation with the likes of La Femme Nikita and his recent production Colombiana. Nikita itself spun off a Hollywood remake, a tv series and videogame.

Renaissance man Steven Soderbergh flexes his versatile muscles, crafting the half-substantial, half-garbage Haywire out of cliche and panache. His gimmick of casting a celebrity non-actor is interesting. It works better here as we buy into MMA fighter Gina Carano's character, her disorientation and quest for the truth. Porn star Sasha Grey headlined his similarly fascinating, underwhelming The Girlfriend Experience.

Beginning with ace scribe Lem (The Limey) Dobbs' tersely simple script, Soderbergh crafts a fortress of film and ferocity around Carano's poker-faced, inviting demeanor. Her deadly female is every bit as mysterious as Saorsie Ronan's Hanna last year. Gyrating, kicking, pummeling her way through a cast of game name stars (Douglas, Banderas, McGregor, Paxton, Fassbender, Tatum), she hitches a ride from a nobody kid (Michael Angarano) whom she relates her tale to in flashback, after a smashing diner opening scene.

These fight sequences are the hypnotizing glue to Soderbergh's project. Carano making short work of these big men speaks volumes about female strength in a world of masculine detritus.

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