Thursday, August 23, 2012

Haywire (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Notable Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Michael Fassbender

Marketing can be a great thing. It gets people to see your movie. You make money. It builds hype. Sometimes, it's the perfect thing a film needs to be successful. In the case of "Haywire", it was a death trap. Marketed as a sort of action packed female version of the Bourne films (at least from what I can remember), this Steven Soderbergh action/thriller arrived fairly dead in the water in theaters. Critics seems to generally like it, but the public pretty much banished it at a rather quick pace. This is because the film was NOT the action packed stunt extravaganza most action fans expect nowadays. Nope, "Haywire" is more of a spy thriller than anything else and Soderbergh's old school style and artistic touches were certain to disappoint those with the expectations parlayed by the trailers.

Mallory (Carano) is Kenneth's (McGregor) best agent in the field. Specializing in all sorts of espionage, his private company is used for a lot of under the radar missions for anyone willing to pay up the bill. Life is looking good until Mallory decides she needs to leave the company. Thusly she is sent on one final mission to Barcelona with fellow spy Aaron (Tatum) to rescue a hostage. Eveything seems to go to plan, but after a fellow agent (Fassbender) tries to kill her she begins to doubt the plan to begin with. It would seem that someone is out for her life and she means to find the truth.

She's looking at you with a gun, but it is what's around the gun that should frighten you.
At its core, "Haywire" is a rather basic espionage script. Awesome agent goes rogue due to betrayal. Uncovers conspiracy within the ranks and seeks vengeance through the very specific skill set crafted over time. Pretty sure I've seen at least a dozen of these sort of films. So "Haywire" does come off as familiar territory that I was comfortable settling into and at times the film follows a rather predictable path with its plot progressions and limited dialogue (which I would have loved a bit more of).

What makes this film set itself out from the rest of the pack is Soderbergh's direction that he takes it. Instead of packing it with over the top action set pieces and 2D Bond inspired caricatures, he crafts "Haywire" to be very realistic and atmospheric. The dialogue is limited, the back stories are limited, the character arcs are not as dramatic. This does leave the film feeling a tad flat, but damn if the atmosphere isn't thick with a delightful 70s espionage tonality! To even ground up its realism more, the action set pieces are relatively simple and effective. Carano is new to the film game (only appearing in some small roles prior to this), but her MMA and Muay Thai skills are on ample display here as she goes fist to cuffs for a majority of the film. Those who follow Blood Brothers or know me, know that I love me some great fist fights in film and I loved what "Haywire" brought to the table. No big scores. No fancy stunts or rapid fire editing. Just two people, stunts, and lots of great fight acting. The throw down between Carano and Fassbender is one for the books as they face off and tear apart a hotel room. The action might not be bigger than reality, but its realism was so impressive that it instantly became the highlight of the film.

"This is for "GI Joe"!"
"Haywire" certainly carries some issues that it struggles with to overcome, including its vague storytelling with characters and a rather wooden performance from Carano (its her first big role though so I will give the benefit of the doubt here), but in the end its artistic 70s vibe and killer fight work won me over. It wasn't hardly at all what I expected from the film, but "Haywire" definitely has some great things about it and any action fan should see it for the previously mentioned elements. I still kind of hope they franchise the Mallory character as I think there is quite a bit more there for writers, directors, and Carano to work with. Here's to hoping!

Written By Matt Reifschneider

1 comment:

  1. Nice write-up. This spy flick actually features some great fight scenes and stunt. It is edited right down to the bone and the production is about as slick as anything in recent years. Emotionally, however, it is on the cold side, mainly because of Carano’s stiff-delivery.