Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Less a female Bourne picture and something closer to a spy caper from the 1960s, this is an odd, quirky action film that was very entertaining. In fact, as Stephanie Zacharek pointed out in her spot-on Movieline review, this is really the first successful Modesty Blaise picture, although Gina Carano is playing a character called Mallory Kane (close enough). She even drinks red wine after a brutal job, which may or may not be a direct reference to Blaise, a female mercenary from the novels and comic strips of Peter O'Donnell.

Carano, not a trained actor but a mixed-martial arts star,  was mesmerizing in this. Her line readings might not be perfect but she knows how to fight and do her own stuntwork, and she also knows how to move through a frame of film. She's both gorgeous and genuinely dangerous looking, like a big slab of muscle. It's fun to see a bunch of alpha-male stars--Michael Fassbender, Ewan MacGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum--play second fiddle, or second place, to her.

There's a fight scene on the beach toward the end of the film that has a kind of surreal energy to it. It looked familiar to me, and then I realized that Soderbergh was directly channeling the opening beach fight scene from On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Shot selection, lighting, the fact that it's sunset. I know that Soderbergh does often study sequences in preparation for his films so I'm pretty sure about this. Kevin, when you see this, let me know what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, man I so want to see it. And you are exactly right about Steven Soderbergh and how he stages fights. He talks about this in his interview with the AV Club, although he never actually mentions "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", it very well could have been one of the ones he mentioned:
    AVC: So what about the other side of it, about the preparation for the fights themselves? She went through stunt training and special ops training. Did you as well, in terms of how the choreography was going to work?
    SS: You know, I just sort of watched movies where I felt the action was well-staged and tried to sort of assimilate the language of shooting a certain kind of action. I knew I didn’t want to do handheld stuff. We had people who could really fight, so I wanted the camera to be stationary, and through editing and movement with the camera on a dolly. I wanted to use wide lenses and looser shots than you’d typically see when you’re shooting action. So I had a toolkit in my mind, and then I was just watching a lot of stuff to see how the people who do this stuff well are doing it.
    AVC: What sort of stuff did you watch?
    SS: Oh, you know, Fincher, Spielberg, Cameron, McTiernan. Just people who are good at staging action. I like to know where I am. I don’t like the kind of cutting where you don’t know where you are.
    AVC: Was it important for each of the fights to have a flavor to them, for one to be distinguished from the other?
    SS: Hopefully the environments that each take place in are different enough to distinguish them, and then the style of fighting is a little different in each one. In a couple of cases she’s attacked first, so that sets up a tricky dynamic. The first action scene we shot was also the first action scene that Lem and I spoke about. When we first started talking about the movie, he said, “Oh, you’ve got to see this Rod Taylor film Darker Than Amber. There’s this fantastic fight in a hotel room. It’s really brutal.” Thank god for YouTube. Found it on YouTube, and I said, “Yeah, what would be even cooler is if it’s in a four-star hotel room and she’s in a cocktail dress, and he’s in a suit. That combination of elements I think would be really striking.” So we were just looking for ways to distinguish each of the fights, but to a certain point, if you’re not going to indulge in bullshit, the thing’s got to come to an end. If you’re not flying people around on wires, and you’re only allowing them to do things that people can really do, it can’t go on for very long, because eventually somebody gets the drop on the other person and then it’s over. The tricky part was making sure they had a natural length and rhythm to them, and it felt like a real fight as opposed to something that a bunch of movie people threw together.
    AVC: Were you ever tempted to do a They Live-style fight scene, where it just keeps going on and on and on?
    SS: Yeah. And there were a lot of jokes about trying to get a zombie in here, just because zombies are huge now. Maybe the next one.