Release Date: 2011
Length: 93 minutes
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender
Movies where women beat up men are mostly stupid. Comparing the actor to the actress and watching how she punches yanks you right out of the story. Not so here. Gina Carano might not actually be able to beat the men she fights, but she can make it look convincing. She knows how to fight. When she moves and strikes, you believe it because it looks like it should.
Carano plays an ex-military, now private contractor, special-ops type. Kinda like the ex-SEALs floating around the Middle East doing security work. Ewan McGregor is her boss and ex-lover who sends her and fellow private spec ops soldier Channing Tatum on a mission to Barcelona. Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas appear as the vaguely official government men who commission the operation.
The movie is mostly told in flashback, so we know something goes wrong somewhere from the first moments of the movie. As each tangle is worked out by Carano, another appears behind it and the plot zips along, but raises questions as fast as it answers them so the viewer spends most of the film feeling confused and on the run with the protagonist. There’s some time-shifting to show the same action from multiple perspectives, and it’s left a bit unclear if we’re seeing what truly happened or what Carano is extrapolating in the retelling.
It’s a fun film; one part spy-thriller, one part action shoot-’em-up, and one part Soderbergh arthouse. It almost works, or works most of the time. But now and then one feels like the plot was built around the action. It seems that excuses are contrived for Ms Carano to be in fist-fights instead of gun battles. With such a fighter, though, I can excuse that easily.
It clocks in at a trim 93 minutes and makes one almost wish for a bit more for Banderas to do, or more scenes with Bill Paxton playing Carano’s father. I’d back it to the hilt as a good movie, but it’s not quite great. The final product is a compromise that came out of a tussle between Soderbergh and the studio (which meant that Carano ended up dubbed by Laura San Giacomo), and unfortunately it probably never was given a real shot at greatness.