Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.
You know what amused the ever loving hell out of me this week? This quote as Gina Carano joined a female version of The Expendables, ahem. It’s from a Variety article announcing it, as well, and it’s easily one of the dumbest things anyone has ever said on anything.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to make a movie that is supposed to be the female version of ‘The Expendables’ without Gina Carano in it,” producer Adi Shankar told Variety magazine. “It would be like making Twix without caramel or Jamba Juice without jamba.”
I wish I could write a massive column taking down about how Gina Carano is just another pretty face with a slightly above interesting back story where being a former professional fighter and American Gladiator somehow translates into acting credibility. At this point her acting experience has been in Haywire and the currently shooting Fast and the Furious sequel. And one has to put an asterisk on Haywire because her voice was, ahem, altered for it.
And by altered I mean “replaced with a couple people to help the character find her own voice” to use the official explanation and such… from which you can infer that statement means “replaced with a couple of people because it was so bad that we needed it merged into one because her acting was so rancid we needed to salvage the film. I mean $20 million doesn’t grow on trees, you feel me?”
The official explanation was that they wanted it for the character, et al, but let’s be frank. It’s because her performance was so bad that Soderbergh had to save his film by any means necessary. Don’t kid yourself if you think this was for any other reason.
You don’t see someone altering an actor’s voice in a major studio picture for any reason after the fact; affecting an accent or vocal change during is standard for a lot of actors. Christian Bale uses an American accent so well it’s almost scary but it’s something HE does. It’s not dubbed in by an American actor after the fact to “better find the character and actor as two separate entities” or some garbage like that. It’s a weaksauce excuse that translates into “man, she was so bad we had to spend millions on a fancy technology so our film didn’t completely suck.”
Think of it like this: if Looper was horrible because of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and they dubbed in a combination of Freddie Hightower and Ethan Hawke’s voice it’d be a massive deal. Why? Good actors don’t get their voices changed for such a ridiculous reason as “finding the character” or any other reason, frankly. Bad actors get their awfulness covered up.
But it harkens to a bigger point: a female Expendables is easily a horrible idea and might be the worst since Nicolas Cage as Superman. And it’s not because women can’t kick ass en masse like their male Expendables counterparts, either. The first thing people will think of is “oh, you’re sexist” in the same manner that people think you’re some sort of anti-religious zealot for pointing out that faith-based films can suck too for a lot of reasons. And it’s not because I don’t want to see women kicking ass; far from it.
It’s just that there aren’t female stars to be nostalgic for out there.
Gina Carano is technically a choice to make if you’re going to duplicate the formula of Stallone’s latest franchise, as she moves into the Jason Statham role, but she doesn’t have the cache that Statham brings to that picture. And if you add in a number of female action film stars over the years you’re not left with anyone who’s an actual movie star. Let’s be frank: you could add in Linda Hamilton, Zoe Saldana, Cameron Diaz, Sigourney Weaver and Milla Jovovich to the mix with Carano and you still don’t have much. It’s borderline direct to video at best depending on the size of the budget, frankly. Why?
Because The Expendables featured people who were movie stars, not people with a handful of popular films.
It’s the difference between movie stars and popular people, as Chris Rock said famously back in his Oscar monologue. Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Willis, et al, were all movie stars at some point. Weaver and Hamilton were in a couple of popular films by comparison. There’s no one longing for a return to the days of Linda Hamilton as an action star, honestly, but people still want to see Arnold as the action movie god he properly is. Carano isn’t even classifiable as a popular actor right now; she’s got a niche that’s hard to duplicate and different bonafides.
Carano is a D-list actress (at best) who used to fight and is now an actress trading on those 15 minutes of fame as long as she can. She gets a pass from people because she wasn’t an actress prior to achieving fame. It’s the Rick Fox rule: You get a certain amount of time and film before she actually has to develop her acting because she’s a former athlete, not a drama student. Right now she can get away with being “so bad it makes Vin Diesel look like Sean Penn” level that will undoubtedly come up in a review of Fast Six (or whatever that film is going to be called). She’s not supposed to be good at this point because she’s new and doesn’t have the acting reps. When it comes to fighting she should look way better because she’s a skilled martial artist; instead of listening to whiny emo songs and being weird, like plenty of drama students, she studied beating people up for fun. When it comes to acting she’s going to be bad and it’d be unexpected if she was quite good.
Rick Fox is a worse actor than he was a basketball player, which is saying something, but no one ever screams that he’s rancid in a Tyler Perry film because it’s not like this was his life’s passion as a child. He’s a former athlete trying to get better and people give him and other athletes leeway; Carano will get this and more because she’s really attractive. Sexism can work in her favor if she’s bad; people pay attention to Megan Fox (and cast her in films) in part because she’s attractive despite the fact that her acting is usually so bad it makes Vin Diesel look like Sir Laurence Olivier. Carano can also always do a sexy photo shoot in a boxing ring again and she’ll be fine. Why do you think Megan Fox wears a bikini so much? It’s there to remind people why she’s in films and distract them from her universally crappy acting.
Bringing in all these older actresses as a sort of team up with Carano and probably a couple other young actresses is only going to emphasize that none of them are stars. Imagine the female Expendables trailer with the narrator announcing that it’ll be “Gina Carano, Kate Beckinsale, Oscar award winner Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Milla Jovovich, Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton and Sarah Jessica Parker” et al are all going to be in the same film? Sounds like a Fried Green Tomatoes remake than the female equivalent to an action film franchise that has been fairly awesome so far.
I think doing a female version of The Expendables is a really bad idea. But it’s not that there aren’t female equivalent films out there waiting to be made from action films past. In fact there are a lot of action film staples that should have their female equivalents before The Expendables if only because they can translate more effectively. A female Expendables will not work, and will lose a lot of money, because it doesn’t have the same cinematic cache. But what could work? A lot of films, actually, and to narrow it down we have to use a couple of criteria.
1. No Superheroes.
It’s easy to do and frankly there aren’t any all-girl superhero groups one can think of off-hand that would be well known enough to justify any realistic budget.
2. Can be a remake of a film made in last 30 years
In fact that makes it easier; people will come out to a familiar concept. Original concepts are having a hard time drawing people into the box office; this is a risky concept to put any budget towards so something that has a built in audience will help.
3. Easily convertible … i.e. the Salt Principle.
Salt was supposed to star Tom Cruise until he pulled out, then Angelina Jolie stepped in and the film didn’t miss a beat. You need a film like that, that allows you to switch in any actor or actress in the lead, without any significant changes being made.
Thus I humbly present, in no particular order:
Why this fits: Women in prison films have a certain status for a reason; now imagine putting a “women in prison” film on an airplane. You throw in Carano in the Nic Cage part, let Sandra Bullock just chew scenery like she’s bulking up for her own Monster and put in someone getting all Buscemi-like creepy and you’re money.
Original Premise: Marky Mark, Tyrese, Andre 3000 and the kid from the Tron sequel are foster brothers who’s adoptive mother is killed. They decide to figure out who did it and kill them.
Why this fits: Get four actresses along the same age or so, bring in an elderly father figure and add in some good old fashioned revenge. It’s Facts of Life but with automatic gunfire. I’d pay a ticket to see that. So would most people, too.
Original Premise: Liam Neeson’s daughter is kidnapped. Necks need to be snapped.
Why this fits: If 90 pound Angelina Jolie can knock out dudes with one punch then a female action star can torture dudes like Neeson. A mother trying to get a child back and doing violent things to do so is a powerful kind of thing to harness cinematically.
Original Premise: Steven Seagal is a cook stuck down below while terrorists try to seize his ship.
Why this fits: If Steven Seagal can rip off Die Hard someone with actual talent can do so as well. Think of it like G.I Jane but intentionally ridiculous, as opposed to the unintentional badness that the Ridley Scott film brought to the table.
Original Premise: Sylvester Stallone is a bad ass cop trying to solve a cult filled with people who use axes.
Why this fits: You know that the line “Crime’s a disease. She’s the cure” would just ooze cool on a movie poster.
Grosse Pointe Blank
Original Premise: John Cusack is a contract killer coming back to his hometown to do a job. The girl that got away confronts him.
Why this fits: John Cusack isn’t the most masculine actor and replacing the genders would be an interesting experiment. A female assassin going back to her high school days could be played a lot of ways; maybe she was the girl who got bullied and became this badass because of it. Imagine the interactions when the former band geek comes back and is just oozing sex and violence. And a little awesome, too.
Original Premise: Wacky cops bring down a drug dealer.
Why this fits: You get two good female comic actresses, like Kirsten Wiig and Maya Rudolph, and let them riff. It worked already in Bridesmaids and seeing them as detectives ala Gregory Hines & Billy Crystal would be a great experiment.
Original Premise: Apollo Creed is a cop trying to bring down Craig T Nelson by any means necessary, including with his penis.
Why this fits: A badass cop trying to bring down a crime lord is never dull. And I bet Craig T Nelson would be willing to star in it; it’s not like he’s making mad bank from his Coach royalties, yo.
Shoot ‘Em Up
Original Premise: Clive Owen shoots lots and lots of bad guys because it’s fun. Paul Giamatti chews scenery for the same reason.
Why this fits: Replace Owen & Giamatti with Bullock & Weaver in your mind. Is there really all that much of a difference? Not really. It’s such a manic film that you can probably duplicate it without much of a problem.
This Week’s DVD – Waking Life
Before A Scanner Darkly showcased off his ability to tell a story with rotoscope, Waking Life showed he could put a film together in the format.
Following an unnamed protagonist (Wiley Wiggins) as he kind of wanders through what I presume is Austin, TX, as he wanders through a series of conversations about philosophy, et al, in a sort of rambling, talky kind of film. If you can tolerate that kind of film, this is for you. Me, I wasn’t nearly as big a fan but the DVD is cheap and I imagine if you’re all drugged up this would be a trippy kind of experience. Kind of like 2001: A Space Odyssey which isn’t all that good of a film unless you’re a little messed up
Neither recommended nor not recommended
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
Frankenweenie – A little kid loses his dog, so he decides to go all Frankenstein and bring him back. Craziness ensues.
See It – Tim Burton’s stop-animation pictures are “can’t miss.” His live action pictures usually are “should miss.”
Taken 2 – There’s something about Maggie Grace that screams “kidnap me” apparently.
See It – Liam Neeson breaking necks and cashing checks? I’m good.
Butter (Limited Release) – Jennifer Garner and others engage in a butter curving competition. Olivia Wilde is a bi-sexual stripper.
See It – This has the Little Miss Sunshine kind of vibe to it.
V/H/S (Limited Release) – A series of horror shorts revolving around VHS tapes, I think.
See It – It’s been getting a lot of buzz lately, mostly good.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .