By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood January 19, 2012 at 11:55AM
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.