His Blazing Automatics is a Vague Visages column by staff writer Dylan Moses Griffin.
When I saw Deadpool about a month and a half ago, something really stood out to me. Yeah, it was a fun film and all, but it had a secret weapon in its chambers that Hollywood has completely underutilized: Gina Carano. She’s one of the better parts of Deadpool, lending her action chops and charisma to the part of villainous Angel Dust. Originally a professional MMA fighter, Carano broke into the film world with Steven Soderbergh’s 2012 action film Haywire, following special agent Mallory Kane (Carano) as she is betrayed by her employers and embarks on a mission for revenge to clear her name.
Haywire, besides being tailor-made for Carano, is about as strong an action debut as they come, as the athlete/actress busts out stunt choreography as complex and impressive as any action hero out there. It begins in the first scene as she throws down in a brutal fight with Channing Tatum at a diner, each of the punches and kicks felt as Soderbergh keeps the shots steady and the cuts minimal, letting the choreography and stuntwork shine. After all, you don’t hire someone like Carano to headline your action film but hide her talents in editing. One of the best qualities an action star can have is the undeniable belief from the audience that she (or he) could kick your ass, and it’s undeniable that Carano could kick anybody’s ass. Even more promising, Carano’s got the sort of charisma and spark to really carry the film past the fight scenes. So why haven’t we gotten more Haywire-level roles from Carano?
Now, Haywire wasn’t a gigantic success, but it wasn’t really a failure either. It took in a comfortable $33 million worldwide against a healthy $23 million budget. While that’s not blockbuster/franchise levels of returns, it’s not a flop, and that’s important. It shows promise on the audience’s part and that they want to see more of Carano. Her supporting roles have still been great to watch, as evidenced by Deadpool. She’s also great in Fast & Furious 6. She spends most of her screentime with The Rock and holds her own, which is the strongest testament to anyone’s on-screen charisma that can be given. Plus her fight with Michelle Rodriguez is as mean and raw as it gets. Rodriguez uses handcuffs as brass knuckles! They really beat the shit out of each other, even tackling each other down some stairs. Carano’s a strong highlight of the film, and this is one that features scenes of The Rock free falling off a moving car on a freeway to land on another moving car just to catch a bad guy, so that’s saying something.
The short answer for all of this is sad and simple: Hollywood is sexist. Duh. The good news is that change is happening… it’s incredibly incremental, but it is happening. Action films featuring women are becoming quite lucrative. The Hunger Games is a massive franchise that every other studio tries to replicate. Lucy, starring Scarlett Johannson, scored a massive $463 million off of just a $40 million budget. Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, netted $293 million worldwide off of a $110 million budget. The Force Awakens and the upcoming Rogue One feature women in leading roles. We’re finally, if extremely slowly, coming to the beautiful place where studios are realizing that audiences want to see action vehicles with women. It’s far from the enlightened place that we should be, but we’re getting there, and Carano is the perfect woman to show us the way. We need more female action stars, and Carano is poised to be at the forefront of that movement. Here’s crossing our fingers for Haywire 2 someday.
Dylan Moses Griffin (@DMosesGriffin) has been a cinephile for as long as he can remember. His favorite film is Taxi Driver, and he reads the works of Roger Ebert like it’s scripture. If you want, he will talk to you for 30 minutes about the chronologically weird/amazing Fast and Furious franchise.