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Soderbergh’s Haywire Premieres at AFI Fest: Review, McHale’s Q & A with Carano, Fassbender, McGregor

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood November 7, 2011 at 1:45PM

By all accounts, the world premiere at Graumann’s Chinese Sunday night of Haywire at AFI FEST was, well, haywire. Sophia Savage was there.
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Soderbergh, McGregor, Fassbender, Carano & McHale at Haywire Premiere
Soderbergh, McGregor, Fassbender, Carano & McHale at Haywire Premiere

By all accounts, the world premiere at Graumann’s Chinese Sunday night of Haywire at AFI FEST was, well, haywire. Sophia Savage was there.

As the secret screening was announced that same morning, it was bound to be chaotic getting people into their seats, even with press tickets on hand. I almost gave up after 45 minutes of running around to different locations based on the well-meaning but uninformed advice of festival staff. But finally I asked the right person and voila! I was in.

The good news: the film is entertaining, and the surprise appearance at the Q and A of Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender—who joined co-star Gina Carano, director Steven Soderbergh and moderator Joel McHale—made the craziness worthwhile. For a more informative Haywire Q & A, check out our coverage of the Comic-Con panel, which included co-star Channing Tatum. At this session, McHale seemed unprepared, riffing off the top of his head:

McHale: “How do you feel about the Kardashian divorce?”

Soderbergh: “I almost didn’t come tonight. We’re all in a period of mourning.”

Soderbergh’s inspiration to make Haywire: seeing MMA fighter Carano on TV. While outlining the Haywire concept with writer Lem Dobbs, they bottom-lined: “She needs to beat her way through the cast,” and worked their way back from there. That explains a good deal.

It’s fun—and novel—to watch Carano’s Mallory Kane—a woman scorned with thighs of steel—kick the shit out of her co-stars accompanied by a cheesy retro B-movie score. The movie should connect with moviegoers in Middle America. But cinephiles may be disappointed by the shallow script and Soderbergh’s bare-bones cinematography (which fails to make the most out of locations such as Barcelona, Dublin, New Mexico) and Carano’s lack of screen sizzle when she’s not in action.

Soderbergh isn’t the only one who doesn’t think it’s right for Angelina Jolie to be the only woman kicking ass in movies. But Haywire walks a fine line between celebrating female empowerment and kitschy exploitation. Are we meant to take her seriously or not? There will be debate on this subject. One thing is clear: Carano is not an actress. She’s a trained fighter, and this movie allows her to play that part within the confines of a Soderbergh film. Enjoy it for what it is.

This article is related to: News, AFI, Steven Soderbergh, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.