Tag Archives: Antonio Banderas

Haywire (2011, Steven Soderbergh)

Haywire’s plotting is meticulous and exquisite. And entirely a budgetary constraint. It’s a globe trotting, action-packed spy thriller with lots of name stars. The action in the globe trotted areas, for instance, is more chase scenes than explosions. Haywire doesn’t blow up Barcelona, lead Gina Carano chases someone down the streets. She doesn’t land a 747 in Dublin, she has a chase scene on the rooftops. And director Soderbergh does phenomenally with those sequences. While Carano’s in real danger and Soderbergh’s shooting realistic DV, David Holmes’s music riffs back to sixties spy movie music and contextualizes things. You still get to have fun watching the spy movie. You’re supposed to have fun. It’s just a different kind of spy movie.

One where the action set pieces are what Carano does, whether it’s stunts or fight scenes, she’s the action. Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs space out the action sequences, sometimes not actually going with a big Carano sequence in the situation. Sometimes the film focuses on her adversaries or allies. Soderbergh and Dobbs do a lot of action thriller without a lot of money.

The film starts with Carano–former Marine and spy-mercenary–is on the run. We don’t know from who, because when Channing Tatum shows up to bring her in, they don’t say the character’s name. It becomes obvious pretty soon, but Soderbergh and Dobbs go through all the motions to give Haywire a conspiracy thriller foundation. They don’t have time to engage with it–or, presumably, money–but it’s part of the film’s texture. Some creative decisions in Haywire just plump up the film. Soderbergh’s not trying to make a low budget spy thriller, he’s making a spy thriller with a low budget. He’s not… chintzing.

So after the first Carano action sequence, the film gets into flashback and explains Barcelona and Dublin, which keep coming up in dialogue. They seem less destinations for major spy intrigue and more stops on a tour group’s European vacation. Nicely, both sequences really pay off. They live up to the hype, even if the hype was really nonspecific so Dobbs and Soderbergh could up the mysteriousness.

Then it’s the flashback catching up to present and the film resolving. Ninety-three minutes of not entirely lean–though subplot-free–narrative. Carano works her way through various other spies and government officials. They’re sort of in glorified cameos, but it never feels like it. The magic of the pacing. Bill Paxton, for example, is in a cameo role. He’s in two scenes. One on the phone. But Dobbs and Soderbergh pace it where Paxton feels like an active supporting player. It’s impressive to see executed. Paxton’s fine–it’s a cameo, he’s got nothing to do–but the feat is how the filmmakers pull it off.

Paxton’s Carano’s dad. Ewan McGregor is her spies for hire boss, Tatum is a fellow spy for hire, Michael Fassbender is a fellow (but British) spy for hire. Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas as government guys who hire spies for hire. Anthony Brandon Wong and Mathieu Kassovitz are the guys the spies for hire go after. No one trusts anyone else. Something Dobbs and Soderbergh take their time addressing, which shifts the film from spy action to spy thriller, both for the film itself and Carano’s understanding of her situation.

So Carano.

As dubbed by Laura San Giacomo.

Yes, really.

Physically she’s great. The stunts, the fighting. It’s all nearly silent–trained killers don’t exchange banter in the seedy international spy ring underbelly of Dublin–so it’s just the fight, just the choreographer, just Carano and the actors and the stunt fighters. The fights are excellent. Soderbergh’s editing and photography, the fighters, Carano–great.

Carano dramatically? She’s really likable. Sympathetic. But the performance is hinky; the dubbing explains it. Carano’s dialogue is already terse so San Giacomo doesn’t really build a character. And the comedy moments are a little off. But it’s fine. Carano does well. The physicality of her performance is spot on. Soderbergh builds the movie–tone-wise–around her action sequences. The chase in middle flashback informs how something in the first act present was done. Exquisite. Always exquisite.

The cameos are all good. Bandares and Douglas have the most fun, though different kinds of fun. Tatum’s good. McGregor’s good. Fassbender’s more just effective. He’s a glorified cameo too. The movie’s Carano, Tatum, and McGregor.

Under pseudonym, Soderbergh also shot and edited Haywire. Technically it’s great. There’s great editing, there’s great photography, seperate sometimes, together sometimes. He does some excellent work in Haywire. With Holmes’s music an essential support. Holmes gets to foreshadow the slight change in tone for Haywire; how the filmmaking, narrative, and music shift gears–the music goes first.

There’s a lot of awesome to Haywire. It’s just an action movie on a budget with a problematic lead performance. The film does well not drawing attention–or even acknowledging–its constraints. But they’re there nonetheless.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Edited, photographed, and directed by Steven Soderbergh; written by Lem Dobbs; music by David Holmes; production designer, Howard Cummings; produced by Gregory Jacobs; released by Relativity Media.

Starring Gina Carano (Mallory Kane), Ewan McGregor (Kenneth), Channing Tatum (Aaron), Michael Fassbender (Paul), Michael Douglas (Alex Coblenz), Antonio Banderas (Rodrigo), Anthony Brandon Wong (Jiang), Mathieu Kassovitz (Studer), and Bill Paxton (John Kane).


THIS POST IS PART OF GIRL WEEK 2018 HOSTED BY WENDELL OF DELL ON MOVIES.


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Puss in Boots (2011, Chris Miller)

CG animation has, much to my surprise, gotten to the point of disquieting reality. In Puss in Boots, Zach Galifianakis’s Humpty Dumpty has such real facial expressions, it makes the entire experience uncomfortable. The face, on the alien form, is too real.

Galifianakis is Puss’s weakest casting choice. In fact, he might be the only weak casting choice. He doesn’t bring any, you know, acting to the part. He’s reading lines, maybe exaggerating his tone occasionally, but he’s not acting. Everyone else is good. Except Amy Sedaris, for the same reason.

Antonio Banderas is great—but Puss is kind of perfect… it’s a cat as Zorro. Who better to do the performance than Zorro? Salma Hayek, Billy Bob Thornton, both are strong.

The film’s constantly delightful, which seems to be everyone’s goal, so picking at it doesn’t seem fruitful. But it would also be difficult.

My biggest gripe, besides the two weak performances (which aren’t bad, just not up to the film’s standard), has to do with scale. When the cast goes from the spaghetti Western setting to fairy tale setting, the two cats and the giant egg-man aren’t around any recognizable size landmarks. In fact, they’re in a giant’s castle… so the scale gets disconcerting.

But it’s a very small gripe. Puss holds it together for a difficult finish too.

By not failing the narrative, director Miller succeeds. Though the lead and the amazing CG help.

Puss in Boots is a very charming, just smart enough amusement.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Miller; screenplay by Tom Wheeler, based on a story by Brian Lynch, Will Davies and Wheeler and a character created by Charles Perrault; edited by Eric Dapkewicz; music by Henry Jackman; production designer, Guillaume Aretos; produced by Joe M. Aguilar and Latifa Ouaou; released by Dreamworks Animation.

Starring Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Salma Hayek (Kitty Softpaws), Zach Galifianakis (Humpty Alexander Dumpty), Billy Bob Thornton (Jack), Amy Sedaris (Jill), Constance Marie (Imelda) and Guillermo del Toro (Comandate).


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You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010, Woody Allen)

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is an unexpected surprise. Allen mixes a very black comedy with this light, almost absurd relationship comedy. But he never goes too dark.

I’m trying to think of a example but will undoubtedly fail to explain. Anthony Hopkins marries his call girl, played by Lucy Punch. Funny situation. This marriage ruins Hopkins. It’s not quite a “just desserts” situation because Hopkins isn’t a terrible guy. No one, with one exception, really gets a deserved comeuppance. Instead, they just navigate these incredibly frustrating, dumb situations they’ve put themselves in….

Allen almost loses it all at the end–he’s using narration (from Zak Orth, who does a fine job) and it doesn’t feel quite right–but then he saves it. This save is immediately following another scene where he could have perfectly ended the film. But the save is better.

Every single performance in Stranger is outstanding, but Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin can do these types of roles. It’s Antonio Banderas who really surprised me. He’s this perfect Woody Allen leading man (even though he’s in a supporting role here). Seeing him bluster and think and speechless… it’s just fantastic.

Gemma Jones is the other principal cast member (she’s Hopkins’s ex-wife, they’re Watts’s parents, she’s married to Brolin). Allen treats her comically, until he establishes it’s her world and everyone else is living in it.

There’s some nice minor performances from Pauline Collins and Philip Glenister.

I expected something decent, but Stranger‘s great.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Woody Allen; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Alisa Lepselter; production designer, Jim Clay; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Jaume Roures; released by Sony Pictures Classics.

Starring Josh Brolin (Roy), Naomi Watts (Sally), Gemma Jones (Helena), Anthony Hopkins (Alfie), Lucy Punch (Charmaine), Antonio Banderas (Greg), Freida Pinto (Dia), Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Jonathan), Pauline Collins (Cristal), Anna Friel (Iris), Ewen Bremner (Henry Strangler) and Zak Orth (Narrator).


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The Mask of Zorro (1998, Martin Campbell)

The last time I saw Zorro (which would have also been the first time), it didn’t impress me much. I don’t remember hating it, but I do remember disliking it. This time through, however, I find myself mellowed. It’s an enjoyable adventure picture, the kind Hollywood doesn’t make anymore. The amount of Zorro swashbuckling alone is more physical action than I’ve seen in years in recent action movie.

Before I forget, I have to mention the ending. Spielberg is credited as an executive producer and it is an Amblin production, so I assume he was aware of the Temple of Doom similarities–down to the James Horner score, which goes out of its way to sound like John Williams.

The film gets by on a few principles. First and foremost, it’s amusing to watch Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas. While Banderas is charming enough, it’s not really an acting job. He’s never good and he doesn’t have an honest moment until the epilogue. Hopkins on the other hand… Zorro is one of his better performances. The script doesn’t allow for his usual hamming. He does get it in a few scenes, but considering he’s wearing about nine pounds of makeup, it’s not like one is taking him seriously anyway.

Stuart Wilson is fantastic as the villain. Catherine Zeta Jones, similar to Banderas, skates by on a certain charm… but she doesn’t get that epilogue reprieve.

Campbell’s direction is good without being exemplar; he makes Zorro a rather fun two hours.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Campbell; screenplay by John Eskow, Ted Elliot and Terry Russo, based on a story by Elliot, Russo and Randall Jahnson and on the character created by Johnston McCulley; director of photography, Phil Meheux; edited by Thom Noble; music by James Horner; production designer, Cecilia Montiel; produced by Doug Claybourne and David Foster; released by TriStar Pictures.

Starring Antonio Banderas (Alejandro Murrieta), Anthony Hopkins (Don Diego de la Vega), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Elena Montero), Stuart Wilson (Don Rafael Montero), Matt Letscher (Capt. Harrison Love), Tony Amendola (Don Luiz), Pedro Armendáriz Jr. (Don Pedro), William Marquez (Fray Felipe), José Pérez (Cpl. Armando Garcia), Victor Rivers (Joaquín Murrieta) and L.Q. Jones (Three-Fingered Jack).


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