FILM REVIEW: Haywire and Red Tails
- January 20, 2012 4:17 PM |
- By Eli Glasner
At first glance Steven Soderbergh and George Lucas would seem to be two very different filmmakers. Lucas, who with Spielberg ushered in a generation of high-gloss blockbusters, created Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Soderbergh made his name with smart snappy art films and then parlayed that into stylish genre pics like Erin Brockovich and Ocean's Eleven.
What they share is success and the fact that now both of these accomplished filmmakers say they're ready to retire.
In a recent interview, Soderbergh talked about his lack of progress, saying that he's not evolving as a filmmaker. He says he wants a break, to step away and recharge.
While George Lucas, in a recent wide-ranging profile in the New York Times, says he wants to get back to his roots and make small personal art films (Following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola.)
Watch the trailer to Haywire and you might think it's the director's take on the recent wave of covert agent films. But with one furious female at the centre, if Haywire is anything, it's B-movie in the mold of Foxy Brown.
Ex-MMA fighter Gina Carano plays Mallory. She's a former marine who works as a hired gun for Kenneth, a private contractor played with an exquisite sliminess by Ewan McGregor. Mallory did a job, someone died and now she's gunning for the guy who double-crossed her. Haywire also has roles for Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender and Antonio Banderas, in the scruffiest beard this side of a ZZ-top convention.
Gina Carano is shown in a scene from Haywire. At least the fights work. (Relativity Media/Associated Press)
Let it be known I am a big Soderbergh fan. He's a great, gutsy filmmaker and film-lover who knows the medium better than many. So my heart breaks when I say after watching Haywire, perhaps it's time for the director to recharge his batteries.
What works are the fights. Bare, brutal symphonies of smashes and thuds where Carano hammers away at some of Hollywood's biggest hunks. Soderbergh favours long takes to savour the destruction and yes, Mallory can certainly handle herself.
But at the same time Haywire feels a tad familiar, like the director is stuck in a rut. Earlier on there's a Barcelona chase scene. Mallory is tearing after a bad guy. She's jumping over cars, bouncing off walls and what's on the soundtrack? David Holmes leisurely euro jazz lounge music last heard in Ocean's Thirteen.
Haywire is an attempt of an Art House/Action hybrid, but the two styles cancel each other out. One moment Soderbergh sets a deadly serious tone with government stooge Michael Douglas laying it all on the line. Next moment Mallory is bounding over the sand dunes, like some Russ Meyers' She-Demon . An interesting attempt, that doesn't quite work.
Ah, Red Tails.
If only the movie that putters onto the big screen was half as interesting as the fascinating story behind the making of this flawed film.
I strong suggest you read this recent profile of George Lucas in the New York Times where you'll learn about Lucas's reaction to his rejection by the big studios. He also reveals there was almost a black Han Solo, and he's still bitter about the fanboy backlash to his
desecration of the original Star Wars films.
But before Lucas takes his X-Wing and flies off into the sunset, he has one last grand adventure to sell. Red Tails is a Second World War tale about the Tuskegee Airmen, a squadron of black fighter pilots who protected bombers.
It's directed by Anthony Hemingway of TV's The Wire, but it's very much a passion project of Lucas, which may surprise some. But consider this. As early as Star Wars, Lucas was always colour-blind. It's just that his characters were green, blue or furry. Plus the story of Red Tails, with its death-defying dogfights and plucky heroes facing impossible odds, fits snugly into Lucas's oeuvre.
Lucas says he wanted to make a popcorn movie to inspire young black teenagers, but if Red Tails was any cornier they'd be handing out sticks of butter with the tickets. He talks adoringly about the rip-roaring adventures of John Wayne and other pulp icons. But the problem with so many heroes and so little complexity is that it gets boring after a while. Even the Red Tails' alcoholic Captain Easy is an unstoppable ace in the air. Good intentions don't make for a good movie and Red Tails somehow stalled on its way to the big screen.
Red Tails 2/5
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