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‘Haywire’: What Went Wrong?

January 31, 2012

I finally caught up with Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire—and just in time; given the film’s limp box office, its theatrical run won’t have muscular legs, unlike star Gina Carano. With Soderbergh’s artistic imprimatur, a strong supporting cast (Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender) and 81 percent  “fresh” reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, how did this movie miss so badly? Oh, I can think of a few reasons…

1. Gina Carano can’t act.  The mixed-martial artist first caught Soderbergh’s eye when he was channel-surfing and landed on one of her UFC matches. He decided to build a film around her—and as long as she doesn’t talk, that’s not a problem. She looks great in an evening gown or fatigues (she’s like Barbie mated with G.I. Joe, if that weren’t anatomically impossible) and her fight scenes have a verisimilitude you’d never find with allegedly ass-kicking actresses like Kate Beckinsale, whose pre-sold sequel Underworld: Awakenings stomped Haywire at the box office. Then she opens her mouth, and even though (or perhaps because) Soderbergh digitally altered her voice, she doesn’t sound like a human being. Hey, maybe Carano’s acting will get better; after all, Andie MacDowell had her voice dubbed over by Glenn Close in 1984’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and she went on to prove her talent in Soderbergh’s 1989 breakthrough movie sex, lies and videotape.

2. Neither can Channing Tatum. I don’t get this guy. Granted, I’m not his target audience, but he just seems like a stiff to me. He’s supposed to play Carano’s love interest, but as EW‘s Owen Gleiberman once wrote of The Bodyguard, “it’s like watching two statues attempt to mate.” Perhaps he’ll win me over in the Valentine’s Day weeper The Vow or, more likely, 21 Jumpstreet (the trailer actually looks pretty funny), but for now, count me as a Tatum hater.

3. MMA isn’t ready for the MPAA. As much as moviemakers try to cash in on the UFC craze, nobody seems to have figured out how to get people to pay hard cash for it in theaters. The well-reviewed Warrior was a box-office featherweight, and I pity the fool who thought Quinton “Rampage” Jackson could fill Mr. T’s shoes in The A-Team movie. Teaming up Carano with a highbrow filmmaker and costars made Haywire even more of a disconnect; the crowd who watches UFC on Spike TV don’t care about Soderbergh’s stylish cinematography, and the auteur’s arthouse admirers turned up their noses at such a downscale leading lady.

4. There’s no nudity! Carano’s got killer curves, and Fassbender happily flashed his, um, Fassbender in Shame, yet there’s not a lot of bare flesh on display, even though they both have shower scenes in a hotel room. A little less modesty would’ve added to the theatrical assets—and even more to the home-video bottom line.

5. Steven Soderbergh makes too many damn movies. For a guy who’s always talking about retiring, he sure is busy. Haywire came out only a few months after the infectious thriller Contagion, and he’s got at least three more movies in the pipeline, including the male-stripper flick Magic Mike, the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon) and the psycho-pharmacological drama Side Effects (with Channing Tatum, who was also considered for Soderbergh’s now-scrapped Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s Rooney Mara). Soderbergh is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get, whether it’s an arty experiment like The Girlfriend Experience (with another amateur actress, porn star Sasha Grey) or a commercial concoction like Oceans 11-13. Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about delivering Haywire 2

Did you skip Haywire? If so, why? Post a comment!

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