Because I missed the past two days of updates, I now present a DOUBLE FEATURE! I plan to do these every now and again when I see two films that I think really compliment each other or attribute to the review of both. We'll see how these go, and everyone likes them, maybe I'll try to do more of them. On with the reviews!
This movie suffers from directorial influence incredibly hard. What was filmed could have been a really cool spy thriller action film, kind of a more interesting Bourne film starring a real fighter as our lead action star, Gina Carano. And before I get any farther, she is amazing(-ish). The fact that she isn’t Wonder Woman is criminal. To the world! They even make a TERRIBLE put-down about it in this film. DC, cast her!! Anyways.
What we got was a first half of a film that built tension incredibly well and was intriguing with cool characters and a neat mystery, and a second half that was just a wheezing sigh of meh. Which is frustrating, because I was loving the ride I was on. It’s like going on this awesome roller coaster, building up, taking a cool twist and spin here, climbing up for a big climax, and then it just kind of is a gentle slope down to the bottom.
This movie is very reminiscent of another Soderbergh film from a few years earlier, the Girlfriend Experience. That is a movie about an escort with a pornstar as the lead, Sasha Grey.
These two films could be a Double Feature between just the two of them. They both aren't told linearly; they both are hyper-stylized cinematic-ally (think like Breaking Bad except it is really noticeable and distracting); they both take a basically non-actress actress and get around lack of acting skill with well used silence and reactions to coax emotion; they both fall emotionally and entertainment-wise flat around the halfway mark. Haywire is better than the Girlfriend Experience, easily, because other than the climactic fight scene between Carano and Ewan McGregor - which jump cuts a few dozen times over the span of two minutes - Soderbergh gets out of the way of the action and lets Carano do her thing. And when she does, it is great. But the fight scenes are few and far between just after the half-way point, and many happen off screen. Because that’s what we as the audience want in our action film, to not see the action.
Ok, she either just broke a dude's neck ... or broke a stool on a kitchen island. This sounds great!
I cannot recommend this movie, because as a film, it peters out and becomes a waste of time. And I hate that. I really wanted to like this movie, I wanted to have a new star to look for. Carano showed up in Fast and Furious 6, which I haven’t seen yet, but I plan to watch just to see how they utilize her. She is a precious commodity for Hollywood: an incredibly attractive, incredibly tough, real-deal fighter with that intangible “it factor” that could really propel her to amazing heights. I hope that this film, being her star-vehicle that just kind of petered out and went nowhere because the director got too heavyhanded and watered down the film, I hope that this film doesn’t drag down what could be an amazing career in film for her. We’ll see.
Surviving the Game is everything an action movie should be (other than innovative). Except it stars Ice-T, who is quite possible the worst actor working in film and television. Ok, ok, too bold a claim, and I don't normally like being completely hyperbolic and negative, but Ice-T really is out of his league in this film. The movie covers for it pretty well once the action gets going, but for the first act we have to sit there with him and his perma-scowl face as he mumbles through lines, wearings a dredlock wig so fake that it makes 8 year-old rastafarian costumes on Halloween look authentic, and just does not do particularly well.
The movie is not a new premise, and for some people, that will be an immediate turn off. It is another in a long list of films that are based on “The Most Dangerous Game” short story conceit. The thing that makes those movies different are the characters and way things go. Going into this film, you know Ice-T is going to get hunted, so they don’t beat around the bush or pretend like he isn’t, which I appreciate.
The movie did two things incredibly well: great actors playing great characters as our hunters, filled with the likes of John C. McGinley, Charles S. Dutton, Gary Busey, F. Murray Abraham, and one of my favorite actors ever, Rutger Hauer. They are all well-established characters, with unique traits and great moments to savor in this film, especially Busey, who delivers just a phenomenal monologue, known as the Prince Henry Stout monologue. It is truly an awesome piece of acting. I don’t normally link videos, but this one is too perfect to not include.
Pretty quickly, the focus shifts to the hunters instead of Ice-T, which is a very good idea, and fixes most of the problems with the film. Though it is particularly off-putting once the light-skinned Ice-T ends up covered in soot to make him look like he is in blackface.
This movie is filmed with fun moments, twists and turns that I could never call before they happened, and a group of great characters. And the only really BAD thing about the film is Ice-T himself, and the fact that this isn’t a new idea, or even a new take on an old idea. It is an interesting, but classic, version of the Most Dangerous Game, but I will definitely watch it again, and I do recommend to any action fans.