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Is Haywire a Game Changer?

by Melissa Silverstein
January 19, 2012 11:55 AM
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I know I am dating myself when I can say that I knew nothing about MMA - mixed martial arts - before I saw the film Haywire.  I'm not the kind of person who tunes in to see women beat each other up in cages or in arenas or quite frankly anywhere.  Not my kind of thing.

But then I guess it's a good thing that Steven Soderbergh does, because with Haywire he's basically created a woman we've never seen onscreen before.  Yes, we've seen women kick butt, most recently Zoe Saldana in Colombiana and Angelina Jolie in Salt.  But those were actress playing action roles.  Here's a woman -- the stunning Gina Carano -- who really never acted before and they built an entire movie around her ability to kick everyone's butts up and down the street.  Pretty damn cool.

I remember when we first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger shining onstage as Mr. Universe.  Hollywood ate him up and we all know that story.  And Jean-Claude Van Damm was a martial arts star before he became an actor.

So Haywire does what has been done before for the dudes - make a female athlete a movie star.  And it works.  No one is going to see this film for Ms. Carano's acting which is fine (way better than stiff Arnold or the other action dudes turned actors.)  They are going to see this movie for the action.  And the action is great and the movie is fun.   The premise is not revolutionary.  Government soldier gets sold out and has to go on the run to clear her name and find out who set her up.  So she does and along the way she evicerates everyone who is trying to take her down. 

The action is at a whole different level than we have seen with female protagonists before.  It's not toned down because she is a girl.  In fact it's ratcheted up because she is the best and no one can figure out how to kill her.

I must give props to Mr. Soderbergh who said to me at a very early screening of this film that he really didn't understand why there were no female action films of this type and he thought that there would be an audience for this type of film.  God love the dude who has enough clout to say I want this to be my next film.  This film could open doors for more action parts for women.  The challenge for this film will be to get men and women to see this film.  I think that guys will like this because of the whole mixed martial arts connection.  But what's good about this movie is that is does not sex up (though she is sexy) her part to get the dudes in.  It's the action that will draw them in.  I think women are a bit harder.  Yes, there is a female lead, but it is pretty brutal action.  But what I would say is that women should see this as a equal opportunity film - the first time we kick ass as hard, if not harder, than the dudes.  That's some serious girl power.

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  • Hattii | November 17, 2012 1:20 PMReply

    I think this is already too much a politically correct genre. Surely all this "go girl" stuff is now lame. A man beating women over and over again throughout a film would be different and brave. Sadly, I think we are stuck in the Obamacentric Hollywood with tired movies like this.

  • Vino | February 8, 2012 6:35 PMReply

    "Game Changer" - ehh? Is this the latest media cliche?

  • draco | January 31, 2012 11:31 AMReply

    I just saw it recently and it wasn't as good as I hoped. I was hoping for some kind of Bourne-lite film like Salt or Hannah was but the story wasn't interesting. Plus the cliff-hanger ending was lame all over. While Ms. Carrano has true fighting skills, her acting skills need work badly. No matter what the author says about Angelina Jolie or Zoe Saldana, at least their portrayals are convincing. Even though the movie was meh, hopefully Gina Caranno can get other parts with better written scripts and and use her paycheck to get real acting skills.

  • cringy | January 25, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    I'd like to see "Haywire" simply because I love movies where women get to f*** up everybody for a change (hell, we see men do it all the damn time, even when their fights are unrealistic as hell). I've been a big fan of Hong Kong action films where actresses have been doing their own martial arts/dangerous stunts for many years, so seeing a woman whip some a** onscreen is old news to me. It's cool that they cast a woman who's actually a real martial artist who can do her own stunts for a change---plus Soderburgh is one of the more intrieging directors of the last 20 years, because he's always managed to balance his arthouse/indie tendencies with his more commercial one, and still have a successful career, which is cool as hell, too.

    And for those men complaining about "Oh, a woman can't kick a man's a$$, that's all fake"--hello-it's called "suspension of disbelief", which you should have EVERY time you watch an action film. Now go watch and enjoy the flick---I certainly will!

  • Nina | January 25, 2012 1:31 PMReply

    This film is a game changer on so many different levels. First of all, Carano is a believable fighter with a strong, athletic, and beautiful build. Unlike Jolie or Saldana, she does not look like she will break. Second, she's not overly sexualized. Michael Fassbender is the eye candy in the movie, the only one in a towel (and quite fine he is). Carano's character, Mallory, takes her shoes off before she fights--she doesn't stay in stilettos. Still, she takes advantage of her woman's body to use her powerful thigh muscles in fights. She has sex, cares about the guy, and is sad/angry when he's injured, yet the film's not about their relationship. In fact, much of the vengeance against her stems from a spurned, and greedy, male ex-lover. Mallory's smart, wily, skilled, and a survivor--and she's not a broken ex-victim like Lisbeth, socially awkward and filled with rage. Carano is a triumph, and I now have more respect for Soderbergh.

  • Frances | January 24, 2012 9:45 PMReply

    Guess the author never heard of Cynthia Rothrock!

  • Tony | January 24, 2012 2:15 PMReply

    I do think this film is a game changer....but only for Gina Carano. Not for women in general. I saw this movie opening night, and unfortunately, it's just not good enough. I am an mma fan, a film fan, and an action movie fan, and this movie didn't really deliver on any of those levels. The fights (save for the one with Michael Fassbender) were staged in such a way that they were too quick and frenetic to be entertaining. If you want to watch a good action movie, with a game changing performance by a woman, go to Netflix and check out the Thai action flick Chocolate. That's a movie with balls, in every catagory.

  • Linn | January 23, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    @Martin, with all due respect, if no one has a weapon - for the obvious reason that changes the situation. But if you are talking hand to hand combat, then if you had taken a self-defense class of any kind you would know that is not remotely correct. The human body has way too many weak spots. Groin (for men), eyes, nose, ears, to begin with. If you're fighting to live - as opposed to fighting in a boxing ring, then you can hurt someone well enough to stop the fight. Every woman has that ability, especially if she is trained. I'm not saying she'll necessarily "win," but you'll be blind in one eye, with a broken nose, ears ringing and your balls ripped off before she'll go down... You definitely would be with me if you tried to harm me. :)

  • Martin | January 25, 2012 6:30 PM

    I don't have a lot of experience in self-defense, i understand what you say though. My intention was not to hurt anybody's feelings here, it's just my opinion.

    I guess it would be like fighting a teenager or a boy really, a woman can definitely defend herself and escape as you said, using the element of surprise, but these movies just level them to men and that's just funny. Maybe this one is better and more realistic, a clear example of what i mean is Salt...a skinny woman throwing punches and knocking men down, come on.

  • Allison | January 23, 2012 10:56 AMReply

    Right, but we can have all the invincible action man movies with a male hero who takes on 6 or 7 guys at once or a guy 5 times bigger than himself and no one says anything. But have a woman action heroine and all the men get upset and insecure.

  • Marcus | July 24, 2012 6:20 AM

    Nor do chauvinist man-children speak on my behalf. I am a man and I have always been more into action films and television that portray strong women than those with a strong male hero. Why? Perhaps because I for one could not kick anyone's ass and therefore I tend to identify with the so called underdogs. Or rather the unexpected savior of the day.

    I absolutely love tv shows like Alias and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, games with female protagonists like Tomb Raider and Metroid, movies where the biggest bad-ass is a woman like Kick-Ass and Haywire.

    I hope we get a James Bond type of franchise with a female lead and a proper superhero movie about a female hero.

    As to the claim about women being physically no match to men, it is just pure and simple BS. I've witnessed a rather skinny girl beat up three men simultaneously before I even had a chance to call the police. The ability to kick ass is not so much about physical strength as it is about mental strength and ability. Sure, I might be stronger than my girlfriend but could I punch her in the face if I needed to defend myself? No. I really couldn't.

  • Matt Horn | January 24, 2012 11:12 AM

    Pardon me, but I'd prefer not to have these insecure children represent me or my sex. They DON'T speak for ME, nor many other men I'm sure. Not least because I happen to love Haywire.

  • Martin | January 21, 2012 9:41 PMReply

    I'm pretty sure i can kick her ass (i know, not a cool thing to say). My point is that women kicking ass is just a ridiculous premise. It's even worse when they are fighting battles along men in period films, dear god. The average grown man is not a match for a woman unless she has a gun, i'm sorry.

  • Matt Horn | January 24, 2012 11:04 AM

    That's a great theory! Why don't you you prove it on Ms Carano? We're all behind you!

    (WAY behind you, mind.)

  • Gabe Toro | January 23, 2012 1:26 AM

    Please test this theory!

  • Tee | January 20, 2012 6:33 PMReply

    I think 'Book of Eli' would have been a much better movie if the Directors had allowed Jennifer Beals to kick Gary Oldman all the way up & down his mean ass b4 she left with Denzel & Mila Kunis. I waited the entire film to see Ms Jennifer Beals do some action. I'm damned sure she's up for it. The bros wasted the sister's talent.

  • Bes | January 20, 2012 3:23 PMReply

    Could we please have some movies for women which are written by women. Because when you take a female character written by a man, cast, directed, costumed, filmed and edited by a man, you get a mans take on women and I am not going to pay money to see women through men's eyes. I prefer something more authentic to women's experience. An frankly if they did come up with a compelling woman character in an interesting plot I doubt any of the women in Hollywood who specialize in playing these male contrived female parts would be able to pull it off. You can see good women's entertainment in community theater where women control the system and actresses are picked for their acting talents rather than specific body parts.

  • TIM | January 22, 2012 4:43 AM

    Then why even comment on this article in the first place? And if you want movies written, directed for and by women, then don't get on some website complaining: produce the damn film yourself, and hire women, or if you are a woman, DIY, and quit complaining.

  • straight man | January 20, 2012 12:57 PMReply

    what straight man would want to see a movie about a female kicking all the guys asses and imasculating them?? what is it about gay men who want women to "be the man" its unrealistic and just foolish.. soon hollywood will have the men in dresses in their movies. pathetic!

  • Teach 101 | January 25, 2012 4:12 AM

    Feeling threatened by a woman, little boy?

  • UBetchya | January 21, 2012 7:13 PM

    Why would it be any worse than watching Rambo shoot a guy's nads off?

  • Tee | January 20, 2012 6:35 PM

    U can wear a dress anytime u like SM!

  • BONDGIRL | January 19, 2012 6:33 PMReply

    I absolutely loved this movie! Saw it at a screening, and talked to Soderbergh after. I hope there is a sequel, and I do hope this will open doors for more women, esp. of varying ethnicities.

  • Kathleen | January 19, 2012 4:44 PMReply

    This sounds good. I hope the star and director will really kick butt and give credit to the feminist movement as the inspiration for this film.

  • Ambika | January 19, 2012 4:07 PMReply

    Definitely a game changer - WOW!! I'm not "in to" action movies so much, per se, but I was so excited by this I teared up watching the trailer. Similar to Girl with A Dragon Tattoo in a way, but this isn't a franchise. It's an original script written by a guy...who CHOSE to write a strong female protagonist, and a director who CHOSE to take a risk on the script AND cast a non-actress for her ability to KICK ASS, not show off her boobs. Can't wait to go see it!

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