CON: Relativity Media - Haywire and The Raven
HAYWIRE’s plot—“a female covert ops specialist strikes back after discovering she's been double-crossed by someone close to her in the agency”—sounds pretty close to SALT, a movie I covered at last year’s Con. But here are two reasons why you shouldn’t write off this flick just yet: director Steven Soderbergh behind the camera and mixed martial arts superstar Gina Carano in front of it. The thought of a high-octane action movie from Soderbergh and a female badass who does all her own fighting and stunts is enough to make us forget about Angelina. Or Jackie Chan.
Soderbergh saw Carano fight on TV almost two years ago and was blown away, saying “I’ve never seen someone perform this way in a cage.” He wondered why nobody really uses actual female fighters in action movies so he gave her a call, wrote a movie around her and here we are seeing her crush larynxes at Comic Con.
Carano might not have much acting experience (though she seemed pretty decent in what we saw), but Soderbergh’s surrounded her by a shockingly great supporting cast: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum and Bill Paxton (sporting what looks like his old TRUE LIES moustache). One of those guys could elevate an action flick like this. All of them together makes this a must see.
Soderbergh and Carano were joined onstage by co-star Channing Tatum, who I swear looked nervous sitting next to the ass-kicking lady, which makes sense considering she broke a bunch of his ribs during filming. (When Tatum first admitted on set that he found it difficult to hit a girl, Carano apparently kept calling him “the female ‘P’ word" until he did.) Soderbergh spoke about what we can expect in terms of action and the name of the game here is “realism.” That means the fight sequences are generally shorter but more lethal, since people with these characters’ skill levels would get job done pretty fast. There are also no doubles used in the movie, even for the non-Carano actors. While a little bit of padding might help a little, when an MMA star is punching you on film she’s not holding much back. In addition to Tatum’s ribs, Michael Fassbender got a vase smashed right in his face. (Apparently he didn’t believe Soderbergh when he told him not to look at it.) That take is left in the movie, thankfully.
Soderbergh then showed the trailer, which you can see for yourself right here:
After that we were treated to an extended fight scene between Carano and Fassbender. It’s pretty spoilery so I won’t go in to much detail about the plot points. All you need to know is that its Carano in a cocktail dress and Fassbender in a suit just destroying each other. And Soderbergh wasn’t kidding—it did look incredibly realistic and not overly choreographed. There’s lots of grappling, holding and slamming against walls, tables and glass. (And given their attire and proximity, there were definitely some sexual undertones to it.) I didn’t even notice any typical overdone fighting sound effects, which was surprising. A really fun clip that had the audience pretty jazzed. Carano is clearly a mix of sexy and viably dangerous. (Her blurting out “I love getting banged and thrown around” got some laughs and new fans.) When she fights in this movie you absolutely believe she could kick your ass, which can’t be said for a lot of actresses that take a few weeks of martial arts training and play tough. The hits connect, the actors are clearly in pain in certain shots and the result looks pretty different from your standard Hollywood spy thriller.
Without a doubt the best part of THE RAVEN panel was when Comic Con staple Bob Stencil got up to the podium and silently held up a Peter Gabriel-playing iPad boombox over his head for John Cusack to hear. Cusack did not find this amusing.
I really had no idea what to expect from the Edgar Allan Poe thriller, but just being in the same room as Lloyd Dobler was pretty sweet (even if he does come off as kind of humorless). The plot sounds like bad fanfic (Poe teams up with the police to hunt down a serial killer who’s using his stories as murder fuel) but with Lane Meyer, British hottie Alice Eve, up and comer Luke Evans and V FOR VENDETTA director James McTeigue all onstage, I was willing to give it a shot.
Someone described THE RAVEN as “MISERY meets SE7EN” and that seems about right. McTeigue explained that the film takes place during last 5 days of Poe’s life (SPOILER!), a period in which the author did actually go missing and whose whereabouts were unaccounted for. Who knows, maybe he was playing Jack Bauer!
The trailer they showed was very action oriented with the standard serial killer trappings. It looked gritty and dirty, with lots of quick shots of creepy and atmospheric elements. (Most memorable to me was a shot of someone pulling a bloody watch out of a dead victim’s mouth.) Overall I think the footage showed promise, if not a little goofy given the idea of Edgar Allan Poe as an action hero. It also kind of reads almost like a meta-adaptation of all Poe’s greatest hits thanks to the murderer. We saw a raven, a pendulum, someone being buried alive, etc.
I love Poe’s work and his imagery seems like a perfect fit for a story like this, but I’m still not sold on the mix of accurately portraying Poe as an historic figure and this fictional killer-chasing concept. Cusack described the movie more as “a dream someone had about Poe” rather than anything faithful to the man, as well as an “art movie and a popcorn movie all at once.” The actor clearly did a ton of research (even if he opted to not have the moustache) and he says he plays Poe as the rock star of his day and the godfather of goth. While there are definitely some facts to support that interpretation, that description kind of worries me. (Let's not cater to the Hot Topic crowd.)
The rest of the panel didn’t have much to do and at one point Cusack actually begged someone to ask Alice Eve a question. Probably the only other memorable thing that happened was when someone asked Cusack about working with his sister Joan again and Alice Eve randomly started making incest jokes. Kinky!
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|Extra Tidbit:||Soderbergh on his impending retirement: "Matt Damon is as discreet as a 14 year old girl." Apparently they had a drunken conversation one night on the set of CONTAGION where Soderbergh just threw out the idea of retiring and four days later Damon was telling the media. Soderbergh wouldn't confirm or deny if he actually is leaving Hollywood, but he said the whole thing was "blown completely out of proportion."|