Haywire and Red Tails

Fight clubs.



Few filmmakers have been more alert to the possibilities of working with non-professional actors than Steven Soderbergh. His 2005 Bubble was an exercise in trailer-park vérité, and the 2009 Girlfriend Experience provided a crossover showcase for porn star Sasha Grey. Now Soderbergh has constructed a high-profile action picture around Mixed Martial Arts icon Gina Carano, a woman alarmingly skilled in the ways of head-kicking, gut-punching, throat-wringing and related modes of cage-match devastation. Unlike Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and other movie-land action chicks of the past, Carano demonstrates beyond doubt that if called upon, she actually could put you in the hospital.

Haywire is an old-school spy-versus-spy espionage tale. It would be nice if the story (scripted by Lem Dobbs, who previously wrote Soderbergh's Kafka and The Limey) made a little more sense; at some points you might wish it made any sense at all. Carano plays Mallory Kane, a black-ops specialist in the employ of an international security firm run by her shifty onetime boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). When a shadowy figure named Coblenz (Michael Douglas) commissions Mallory's services in extracting a Chinese journalist from bad-guy captivity in Barcelona, Kenneth dispatches her there with a team that includes the prickly hunk Aaron (Channing Tatum); she's also told to coordinate with an ambiguous local character named Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). The operation is a suitably tense undertaking, crowned by a back-alley smackdown in which Mallory, in an explosion of leg-sweeps and gob-smashes, reduces an oppo gunman to twitching insensibility. This is pretty great to watch, let me tell you.

Back in the States, Mallory is redeployed to Dublin to join a British intel agent named Paul (Michael Fassbender) in taking down a French operative named Studer (Mathieu Kassovitz) for reasons that remain unclear for rather too long. At the end of this mission – which includes one of the wildest close-quarter brawls outside of the Bourne movies—Mallory discovers she's been set up by someone to take the fall for a serious lapse with which she had nothing to do. Scared and angry, she flees to New Mexico to seek refuge with her dad (Bill Paxton), a mild-mannered adventure novelist. Here there's a showdown—which continues in South America, and then Majorca—in which the jumbled plot elements attempt to come together, with only partial success. (For one thing, you may be left wondering why, in cutaways throughout the film, Mallory keeps revealing everything about her hush-hush capers to the terrified driver of a car she's hijacked.)

Still, it's a rousing movie, and the first thing you might want to know about it is: Can Carano act? Well, since it is an action flick, I think that question can be answered with two words: Chuck Norris. Carano's expressive abilities may be limited (at the moment), but they're sufficient unto the needs of her character, who can express herself quite effectively by snapping a man's neck with her knee. And because of Carano's real-world battle skills, the director is able to capture her fight scenes in extended mid-range shots, with no need for stunt doubles, wire trickery or fast-cut concealments. The action is entirely convincing.

Carano also has a sweet smile (and surprisingly un-mashed features, given her brutal ring exploits); and in the course of two brief romantic interludes and some affectionate interaction with Paxton, she shows promise of continuing development as an actress. The unsatisfying conclusion of Haywire virtually mandates a sequel. (Soderbergh says he has no interest in doing one, but would happily consult.) If that doesn't work out, the producers of the long-brewing Wonder Woman movie are in the market for someone to play their formidable title character. On the basis of Carano's performance in this film, I'd say that search should be over.

Red Tails

Red Tails tells an important World War II story of brave black soldiers chafing at the constraints of government-enforced racial segregation. It's gratifying to see this true story told, with a complement of able black actors, in a movie to which the name of Tyler Perry is not appended.

So it's too bad the picture is so resolutely old-fashioned and meanderingly paced (it's a first feature by director Anthony Hemingway), and that it's afflicted with distracting absurdities.

The story begins in Italy in 1944, with a unit of black fighter pilots – the Tuskegee Airmen – cooling their heels far from the combat action (the official military view being that "Negroes" are incapable of flying missions, operating complex machinery or much else, and are in addition cowardly by nature). Some of the airmen, like Captain "Easy" Julian (Nate Parker), are resigned to such systemic racism; but one of them, a kid called Lightning (David Oyelowo), can't disguise his smoldering fury.(He's an avatar of the Civil Rights era to come.) Meanwhile, a senior officer, Major Stance (Cuba Gooding Jr.), looks on, smoking a kindly pipe, while the unit's commander, Colonel Bullard (Terence Howard), is away in Washington fighting the Pentagon brass for more meaningful duties for his men.

Bullard eventually gets his way, and his pilots are soon flying combat support for bombing runs against dug-in German forces. (When the unit is belatedly given up-to-date aircraft to fly, the men paint the tails of them red.) The Tuskegees acquit themselves valiantly (as the real Tuskegee airmen did), and soon—all too soon, I'd say—the white pilots who initially derided them with racist epithets are glad-handing them as buddies.

The movie is filled with impressive computer-assisted aerial-combat sequences punctuated by cockpit close-ups of the Tuskegee pilots (their radio face masks helpfully pulled aside so we can keep track of who's who). Also on hand is one snarling German pilot ("Show no mercy!") to represent the Evil Hun in all his arrogant variety.

The movie is undermined by several implausibilities. Flying over a village on one run, Lightning looks down and sees a pretty Italian girl gazing up at his plane and waving. After arriving back at the Tuskegee base, he immediately returns to the village and goes right to her door. And before very long at all he and the girl, Sofia (Daniela Ruah), have fallen in love—even though she speaks not a word of English, nor Lightning a word of Italian. And while Easy is depicted as drowning his despair in whiskey, he never appears to be drunk; so instead of seeming a man with an out-of-hand drinking problem, he appears to be simply a man with an ever-present drink in his hand. There are also a few close shots featuring one of the airmen playing a guitar – or at least running his fingers up and down the instrument's fretboard, without forming the chords we hear (an old-fashioned cheat in itself).

For a war movie, Red Tails is surprisingly low on grit; it's too amiable and light-weight. The actors are fine (Oyelowo has a sly comic spirit, and Howard brings a compelling gravity to his scenes). Despite their best efforts, though, the movie taxis around mildly without ever achieving lift-off.

NEXT: Why I'll Miss Rick Perry

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  1. “It’s gratifying to finally see such a story told, with a complement of able black actors, in a movie to which the name of Tyler Perry is not appended.”


    1. Funny every time.

  2. When will someone review my “movies”?

  3. Channing Tatum has a pretty badass name. I’ll name my kid Dovahkiin [last name].

    1. It’s all fun and games until he shouts “Fus Ro Da!”

  4. You had me at “Carano”.

  5. Soderbergh is so vastly overrated as a director. Most of his acclaimed movies are either remakes of other movies, remakes of television series, or are from a book. Everything since Sex, Lies, and Videotape has been crap.

    1. I thought Schizopolis was great. Everything since, crap.

    2. Nu-uh! A Scanner Darkly and Traffic were both fine films.

      1. Scanner was Linklater.

      2. Dumbass.

        I liked A Scanner Darkly. Traffic was a ripoff of a BBC miniseries, and also totally overblown. Shitty movie.

    3. Sex, Lies, and Videotape was and is crap.

    4. I tried watching The Girlfriend Experience about a year ago. According to IMDB, it’s only 77 minutes long, but I was still unable to force myself to finish it.

      And my lack of interest in the movie had NOTHING to do with “dude, Sasha Grey should be naked more,” since she’s just about the least sexy porn star I’ve ever seen. (OK, Belladonna is even worse.)

      Oh, almost forgot, Ocean’s 12 fucking sucked as well.

      1. Though, the behind the scenes video of Sasha and Belladonna together is pretty amusing…I believe the jaded young porn star Sasha being shocked and appalled by the things said by Belladonna was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  6. When the black pilot goes and finds the Italian girl, when he enters the village, does he ask where the white women are at (in an appropriate dialect)?

    Additionally, I wish to hear this film reviewed by Slappy.

    1. It would also be awkward because the chick playing the Italian girl is the gal from NCIS LA — she’s about 15 feet tall. I bet the black pilot feels threatened when she answers the door. Where’s the NAACP when they’re so desperately needed?

  7. Redtails isn’t a story that is “finally being told.” HBO produced a movie about the same story in 1995 called “The Tuskegee Airmen,” which also had Cuba Gooding Jr. in it along with Laurence Fishburne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and others. It was a good movie.

    1. That was my question. How is this different from the Tuskegee airmen film?

      1. George Lucas didn’t apply his ham-fisted touch to the first one.

  8. Nice UZI

    1. I think it’s a micro-UZI. Definitely not the full size version.

      1. You are correct. I have the full size version in .45 (semi only). It’s much larger. Fun to shoot though.

      2. It’s the Micro UZI. I have a full size UZI SMG and love it. I have thought about trading it for a mini-UZI. The cyclic rate on the micro is way too fast, though, and there aren’t enough aftermarket accessories and caliber conversions to make it worth the dough for a real NFA one.

      3. Why would I ever need a gun? I can flick quarters at like mach 7.

  9. Google image Gina Carano. Her abs are ridiculous. Is that too muscular to be attractive on a chick?

    Channing Tatum, fwiw, is hardly a hunk. He has a serious case of dead (or maybe just dumb) eyes.

    1. Picky aren’t we. The girl taht cuts my haie and works at the local bar looks like her in the face.

    2. Carano’s not my type, at all, but that’s way within limits.

      1. It was a selfish question because if I keep steady on the grind that is kind of the direction I tend to head in and I am deathly afraid of getting “bulky,” no matter how many people assure me that is really hard for women to attain.

        1. It’s all in the type of bulk you’re gaining — athletic bulk that looks ace, or Schwarzenegger bulk that makes babies cry.

          1. A friend of a friend is one of those female fitness competitors (you know, the ones that dye their skin orange for events) and I would hazard a guess that she has the baby-cry bulk.

            1. There’s women that look muscular, more so than Carano (more pronounced), but the extra mass all sits very symmetrically on the curves on the body, and it either doesn’t detract anything, or adds to the appeal.

              Baby-cry bulk, the sort born of steroids and retarded esoteric workout regimes you can only get in San Francisco, looks like rounded Lego that’s been unevenly attached to the body. Ew.

              Whatever you do, steroids and SF are a big, big no-no, Dagny.

            2. I’ve known some girls who worked out and lifted it lot. Did some competitions. The thing is that they only looked a little bulky during or immediatly after getting pumped up for a competition. The rest of the time they just looked fit and great. Not at all musclebound or bulky. Definately stay away from the juice. That is when you start looking bulky. Unless you’re workin out hours and hours everyday you’re not going to have anything to worry about.

            3. Like the others said, very few women can get baby-cry bulky without using “chemical enhancement.” It’s very very unlikely you have anything to worry about.

        2. You won’t bulk up unless you eat more or juice up.

    3. Is that too muscular to be attractive on a chick?

      I’d hit that. I mean sexually. There’s no way I’d actually try to punch her.

  10. I can’t imagine that “Red Tails” will be anywhere as good as “A Soldier’s Story” in exploring race relations and the restrictions faced by black soldiers during WWII (or be as interesting a story).

    Of course, having Howard Rollins, David Allen Grier, Robert Townsend, Patti LaBelle and Denzel didn’t hurt.

    1. How could you forget Adolph Caesar? He was the best thing about that movie.

  11. Mallory Kane? Are the screenwriters fans of ‘Archer’?

  12. Quote of the day:

    “Tony Stark, the brilliant billionaire, is also Iron Man, the invincible super hero, which makes him more likely to get ass than you on no less than two levels.”

  13. Is anyone getting tired of Lucas’s tour through the media whining about how the racisty racists in Hollywood wouldn’t buy his movie so he had to dig through the couch in his living room to get it out there BECAUSE DAMMIT MAN THE BLACK MAN HAS NO HEROES IN HOLLYWOOD!!!

    I mean, when I think of civil rights pioneers one of the first things that always comes to mind is George “Hey maybe I’ll put Steven Jackson in Star Wars so black people might come watch it!” Lucas..

    1. Plus, Jar Jar Binks was an obvious Black/Carribbean character. Was it pandering for a black demographic? Or did he look back at the original series and realize it was very white bread?

      1. Technically Lando (Bill Dee Williams) was the first non-white character with a real role in the Star Wars franchise, but supposedly Lucas was frustrated that barely any black people were going to the theater to watch Star Wars movies, so he cast SJ to fire up the demographic.

        Still didn’t work. Plus his alien characters were pretty racist to begin with.


        Lucas needs to go away.

        1. D’oh! I forgot about Lando. Billy Dee Williams is one smooth cat. I’m not a Star Wars buff, anyhow. I’ve seen them once and that’s plenty. Also, I saw Tuskegee Airman back in the nineties when it was on HBO. Maybe Lucas could tell a different story about black folks? I’m sure black people have done more than go to court for their freedom (Amistad), fought in the Civil War (Glory) and flown fighter planes.

          1. Empire Strikes Back is universally agreed as the best of the franchise, but Return of the Jedi would’ve been if Lucas hadn’t fucked up the writing after Gary Kurtz left. Kurtz spoke in an interview recently about it-
            Did ‘Star Wars’ become a toy story? Producer Gary Kurtz looks back

            “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”

            The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

            Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

            Had they kept the idea of ending it bittersweet we would be talking about how it was one of the best movies ever instead of just a Star Wars movie.

            I’m, uh, not a fan of Lucas.

            1. Very much like the character Luke Skywalker, Lucas just didn’t have the imagination to go deeper and darker, hence there was never any real danger in the series for the main characters. Sci-fi is always most compelling when it explores the darker side of human nature.

    2. I avoid movies whose creators insist on its own importance due to subject matter. It’s a movie. A fictional movie at that. Almost everything else going on in the world including a case of Tic Tacs in a warehouse in East St. Louis is more important to our quality of life than your movie.

  14. “It’s gratifying to finally see such a story told”

    Not to denigrate this movie, but this isn’t the first time these guys’ story has been told.


  15. I’m sure your taking shit for thit Mr. Loder, but wtf? Was imdb.com blackedout for sopa when you wrote this?

    Red Tails tells an important World War II story of brave black soldiers chafing at the constraints of government-enforced racial segregation. It’s gratifying to finally see such a story told, with a complement of able black actors, in a movie to which the name of Tyler Perry is not appended.

  16. I’m sure your taking shit for thit Mr. Loder, but wtf? Was imdb.com blackedout for sopa when you wrote this?

    Red Tails tells an important World War II story of brave black soldiers chafing at the constraints of government-enforced racial segregation. It’s gratifying to finally see such a story told, with a complement of able black actors, in a movie to which the name of Tyler Perry is not appended.

    1. Shit for thit? Is that like tit for tat?

  17. Plot and crap director be damned, I’m gonna love Haywire. Chicks with miniguns and highkicks is what the world needs now.

    1. I would totally bottom for Gina Carano.

  18. Dude is like totally rockign it man. WOw.


  19. OK wow, so why didnt I ever think of that? Wow.


  20. Dude is making a LOT of sense man. WOw.


  21. “Thank God for the sickle cell….”

    Oh, sorry – I was watching “Full Metal Jacket” again this weeken.

    /Animal Mother

    1. We need Gunnery Sergeant Hartman to moderate the next GOP debate, just so he can call Gingrich an unorganized grabasstic piece of amphibian shit and tell Santorum that best part of him ran down his mama’s crack and ended up as a stain on the mattress.

      1. And tell Mitt Romney if Romney was f**king his friend in the a**, he wouldn’t have the common courtesy to give him a reach-around.

  22. My buddy wants to see Red Tails tonight. I’m hesitant, as Hollywood usually fucks up anything to do with historical events or persons. Take Saving Private Ryan. Yeah, sure, Army Rangers, less than a week into the Normandy campaign, piss and moan and mutiny at the drop of a hat. Sure. Band of Brothers has set the standard.

  23. the 332d was like any other 12/15th air force unit.In North Africa they were issued new P-40F/L models and these were flown hard in ground support missions.When they went to italy,they were a junior unit, so,surprise, they got hand -me-down P-39s. Early spring 1944,they got new P-47s, flown for 4 months.Transitioned into P-51s in the summer of 1944 when their mission changed . It’s fiction to say they were given junk based on racism . Every junior outfit got what was in the depots

  24. My humble opinion is that ‘Red Tails’ is George Lucas’s $58 million apology to black people everywhere for Jar-Jar Binks. And rightfully so.

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