Gina Carano has charisma to spare, and it's little wonder Soderbergh felt driven to make a film in which he could showcase her.
I'm not a fight fan. Well, that's only part true. I don't watch MMA or UFC or really any sort of fighting, but that's because there are only so many hours in any given day, and I have to prioritize about what I do with my time. I always have more movies to watch. I always have something to read. I always have something I could be writing. I am constantly able to find something that I should be doing, and so the idea of spending a night watching fighting just doesn't fit into the timetable I've got set up.
I do like the actual sport of fighting, though. I grew up a boxing fan, and I see how boxing has evolved into these other major forms of organized fighting now. I can see why the audience is drawn to the other forms, and I can see why the stars that have emerged from this world are considered stars. There is a different level of physical engagement we see from these people, a different level of abuse that they seem willing to subject themselves to, and that's part of the thrill of MMA. We're impressed by these people because it seems completely deranged to voluntarily step into a ring where someone could beat the holy hell out of you and leave you unconscious with a torn rotator cuff within 45 seconds of starting. That's not a tornado I want to stick my arm into, thanks, so those who do it and who do it well are definitely to be admired.
For Carano, though, her ability to beat me unconscious with my own thigh bone is just part of her appeal. It is the contradictory nature of who she is that makes her so interesting. There's a sequence in "Haywire," the movie that she stars in that opens this weekend, where she has got to escape from somewhere, and it's a long complicated sequence involving rooftops and drain pipes and shimmying around ledges and running and jumping and, yes, some ass-beating. And in the whole scene, she handles herself physically with a precision and a believability that are impressive. But she also rocks the cutest hat in the world, and she looks pretty adorable the entire time. I should not be describing a Lee Marvin-style unrelenting badass as "adorable," but I think Soderbergh likes that dissonance, that clash between the aspects of who she is, and he plays to it.
Sitting down with her, I thought she was charming. This is as close to full-on flirt as you'll ever see from me in a junket setting. I was just plain enjoying the chat with this fascinating woman, and I think she's got a genuine career in film if she wants it. I have no idea if there will ever be another Gina Carano action movie, but I do know that if it gets made, I'll see it. She storms through this one like a star, and it's a real treat to sit down with anyone at this sort of turning-point moment in a career.
"Haywire" opens this Friday. Make sure you wear a cup.