Girls on Film: With Guns
January, February and March are notoriously bad months for the release of any movies. Many are sent out into the world, but few are well advertised and even more are forgettable. These are the red-headed step-children of studio films, movies in which no one had a lot of initial faith and they are now hoping to capitalize on the dreary weather and lack of blockbuster fare to capture a few audience members.
This is also the time of year in which movies about women (which aren’t angling for Oscar noms) tend to flash quickly across the big screen and then go to die small deaths on DVD and Blu-Ray.
One centers on a rogue spy trying to clear her name and seek revenge against her would-be-killers and the other is about a noob-bounty-hunter seeking to secure a large reward against a former lover. While romantic entanglements ensue, these were the side plots of otherwise excellent story-telling about believable female heroines.
Each are coping with the end of committed relationships and unemployment of sorts – both of which factor into the plot and their motivations. Mallory Kane is a “black ops super soldier” who can run, jump and kick ass with the best of them, but can’t seem to escape the scheming and plotting of her former boyfriend, Ewan McGregor.
The adorably named Stephanie Plum is unemployed and newly-divorced, seconds away from losing everything. Through sheer nepotism she lucks into a gig which allows her to pursue an ex-boyfriend, Jason O’Mara (a delicious Irishman from the short-lived but awesome US version of Life on Mars), for a $50,000 reward and solve a neighborhood crime in the process.
Each movie features an attractive array of Hollywood hotties to entertain the ladies in it the for the eye candy. Both display violence towards women, but not in a heavily sexualized manner. It is violence in the line of duty, while doing the job and it could have happened to male counter-parts just as easily.
One is pure control and calculation (Mallory), the other is comedic timing and bumbling tactics (Stephanie). Mallory kicks ass, the scene with Michael Fassbender in the hotel room, being the most raw and powerful scene in the movie, though I particularly loved the roof-top chase. Watching Gina Carano was glorious and her action scenes had everyone in the small theatre groaning and exclaiming in sympathy with her victims.
Mallory was the only female in the movie being hunted, antagonized and terrorized by a bevy of dudes. I’m not really buying the lone huntress vibe here. It’s a typical male crafted and conceived female action heroine and the only thing setting it apart is Carano’s glorious physicality.
Stephanie, on the other hand, is a spazz and inadvertently allows honest people to be beaten and even murdered because of her naive approach to solving crime. She is assaulted by a witness she interrogates and is nearly blown up by a car bomb (and shot a few times by the suspect she pursues). She is vindictive towards the former boyfriend, having at one point hit him with a car “by accident.” In short, she has flaws and character weaknesses which make her identifiable. I wouldn’t know the first thing about bounty hunting and neither does she. She learns the ropes from an attractive co-worker named “Ranger.”
She has regular family dinners, engages with a female co-workers, visits with female prostitutes and talks to a witness who is a mother. She also engages with her boss, a cousin who is a cop, a male suitor and suspects. You know, an entire world of people of various genders, sexual orientations, shapes, sizes, backgrounds. It’s like real life! Take note other screenwriters!
By the end of the film Stephanie does tackle a suspect, mace another and then unload an entire clip into a dude’s chest. She is able to handle herself , but the rawness doesn’t translate in the same way without an MMA fighter doing the dirty work. Katherine Heigl fighting crime in high heels and a sun dress (at first) eventually melted into skinny jeans, boots and a leather jacket. Trading her femininity for something functional but still sexy. I dug it.
While I enjoyed watching Gina Carano as Mallory kicking real ass, there wasn’t much else to learn about her character except she loved wine and her Papa. Since Soderbergh is responsible for this malarkey, I’m blaming it all on him and his writing team.
Stephanie Plum on the other hand is charming, off-beat, and a fully realized character. One For the Money is directed by a woman and the script featured a team of female writers. I’ve never read the book series, so I have no comparison or pre-conceived notion of what the film should be. My favorite part: the romance is only a piece of the puzzle, a very small one.
Both were pleasurable but passable watches and bode well for the kind of heroines we want to see gracing the screen. Fully realized, action packed female characters who are believable in their roles, be it because of physicality (no more stick thin action waifs) or because of well-written and well-rounded roles.
Bechdel Test: “Haywire” does not feature more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES NOT PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and does not feature more than two minority characters who have names, and speak to one another about something other than white people so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.
*Bechdel Test: “One For The Money” features more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES PASS the women test, DOES NOT PASS the men test and does not feature more than two minority characters who have names, and speak to one another about something other than white people so it DOES PASS the race test.