Director Steven Soderbergh has to be wearing himself out at the rate he makes movies. He made one back in September of 2011, his latest, Haywire is out now, and he’s got another lined up for the summer. With that, Haywire doesn’t seem to show any signs that the director has lost his touch as he crafts a tightly wound thriller that hearkens back to 80s action movies. With a solid cast, and a surprising performance from star Gina Carano, Haywire keeps you entertained, engaged, and prepared to kick some ass.
Black ops super soldier Mallory Kane (Carano) has successfully pulled off an extraction mission in Barcelona. Her employer Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) ropes her into one final job that’s meant to be simple but culminates in her being attacked and framed. As Mallory starts to put the pieces together, the web of deception goes all the way to the top and Mallory has to fight back in order to clear her name.
Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs keep Haywire entertaining by how fast paced it is. The opening starts with an epic fight sequence which sets up the entire momentum of the film. From that point you’re following Mallory as she recounts the events that led up to her current situation and as she mentions there are no “loose ends” left hanging in the breeze. You do have to pay attention in the first half of the movie and you will be a taste confused, but that’s only to put the audience in Mallory’s position as you uncover things when she does. When the film concludes by going back to the very beginning, the set-up of the project that will leave Mallory framed, and the plot doesn’t feel loose or left open. The action itself is nothing short of brutal and bloody. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a massive fight sequence that didn’t feel highly choreographed and Haywire has two amazing brutal fight scenes (although the final showdown is a disappointment). The battle between Mallory and her “date” Paul (Michael Fassbender) is the highlight of the movie as every punch feels real. The fight lasts a good 3 minutes and in that time the two are hurling each other around and smashing everything in the hotel room; it’s painful in its execution.
The acting across the board is solid for a movie that could have easily devolved into stupidity. Many critics are slamming MMA fighter Carano for being a terrible actress but for a debut role she’s to be expected. Many are calling her the female Steven Seagal and to that I say…Steven Seagal isn’t the best actor yet audiences enjoyed his movies? Carano doesn’t do well with the emotions, and at times she can be robotic, but when it’s time for her to unleash a pounding you’re not watching her acting, you’re watching her make someone cry. The line deliveries are good and her ability to inhabit the character is pulled off. I never rolled my eyes when she opened her mouth, I think she’s got the potential to be an action star. The rest of the male cast is solid, but when Carano’s on-screen they don’t matter.
Soderbergh does fall into Ocean’s 11 territories at times which does remove this film from its staunch action genre. The score by David Holmes seems like a rip-off of the Oceans score with far too many jazzy beats that almost make certain moments feel comedic. The need to make this look “slick” is bizarre. Ewan McGregor seems out of his element in this type of thriller, looking lost for the majority of the film. His character has the weakest fight scene in the movie where it’s meant to be the big showdown. Its apparent how choreographed it is with McGregor flailing his arms and you can see when hits are not even close to connecting. After seeing the brutality of the fights before this, the finale felt flat.
Steven Soderbergh crafts a strong throwback to 80s actioners with a leading lady that shows how much a woman can hurt you. Carano is great surrounded by an all-male cast, making Haywire, far better than expected.