I saw Haywire, the action movie starring MMA fighter Gina Carano, on Tuesday.

What I knew going into the film is that it starred Gina Carano. That she is or was a mixed-martial-arts fighter. That Channing Tatum was in the film. That is was directed by Stephen Soderberg. That was it.

What I did not know is that the movie also stars Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender.

Haywire is a good action-thriller. It’s very similar to the Jason Bourne movies. Carano plays Mallory, a private black ops contractor for whom things have gone terrifically wrong. She’s been betrayed, by someone. She spends the movie fighting to get her good name back.

This is noteworthy. At no point does Mallory fight to protect a child. She’s not married, has no kids or nieces or nephews. There is no kidnapped child in this film. Moreover, Mallory does not rescue women from prostitution or human trafficking. She does not free or rescue women from the drug trade. Mallory does not fight for family, love, or principles of universal justice. She does not defend the weak and downtrodden.

What Mallory does in Haywire is what male action heroes have been privileged to do for nearly a century of film. She’s fighting to get back at the people who betrayed her. She fights because she’s been not merely framed but slandered. And she cannot allow that to stand.

How refreshing.

Another point of note —

At no point does Carano change her clothes on-camera. She is in control of her sexual agency throughout the entire movie. At no point does she strip in order to distract someone. At no point is she threatened with rape.

In fact, no character is threatened with sexual assault at any point in this film.

The writing and dialog in the film are quite good. The plot is a typical international double-cross. The acting is superb. Carano is … okay, she’s not superb. But she’s good, and she carries her parts of the emotional plot of the film very well. The soundtrack is fascinating — it’s nearly European, in that it choses to not have music during many scenes. This adds a realism and immediacy to the action. Moreover, the sound editing all together leaves in many, many background sounds and noises. Shoes squeak.

There is a … not a chase scene, but a scene where Mallory is being tailed. It is an amazingly tense scene. The filming of it was gripping.

Haywire does not pass the Bechdel Test. This points out that the Bechdel Test is a guideline, a principle, not a hard-and-fast limit.

Haywire is a good, solid action flick. It is groundbreaking in a way that I find … heartbreaking. It is groundbreaking in that the sex and gender of the main character really doesn’t matter to the film at all.

2 Responses

  1. The concept of Bechdel fail is also far more informative across a number of films. One particular film failing the Bechdel test isn’t really all that informative, unless it’s a film about something like, you know, women’s suffrage. But when you can go through 20 or 30 films and they all fail?

    I really wish I’d seen your post before my link round-up on HC went up this morning, boo for me. 😦 I was disappointed that Jennifer Stuller didn’t seem to like it at all. It doesn’t have to be the Amazing Feminist Film Revolution of All Times to be a big step forward in the right direction. For Carano’s first role and being directed by Soderberg, I thought she did fine.

  2. @Skye YES. This is about diversity of roles. This role could have just as easily been played by a dude — there was NOTHING ovarian about it. Nothing. And if that was *all* there is in action films, that would be a problem. But in a sea of action films in which women are, at some point in the film, required to strip for the plot, this is a very welcome addition to the diversity spectrum.

    And, the sound editing was really superb.

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