Review: Haywire

So the story goes – Director Steve Soderbergh found himself watching some Mixed Martial Arts event on television when he spotted female fighter Gina Carano. Somewhat smitten and convinced she had the potential to be a huge star, he tracked her down and asked her to be the main character in a film he and a friend had written. That film is Haywire. Is Soderbergh right to have such faith? Does Carano have what it takes to carry her own film? Read on, dear reader. Read on.

Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a highly trained black ops agent working for a shady Government contractor. With a seemingly successful hostage rescue completed, she finds herself betrayed by her handler, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), framed for murder, and victim to a brutal assassination attempt. She cuts a bloody swathe across Europe and the States until she can get the answers to why she was burned and her revenge on Kenneth.

There’s no doubt in my mind how this film was positioning itself – Bourne but with a chick (I even mentioned as much when I saw the trailer). The problem with such a direct comparison to a fantastic series of movies is that you have to come out of the corner swinging in order to get noticed. And Haywire simply doesn’t. Soderbergh’s direction just doesn’t allow for that fast-paced, pounding, kinetic action. He’s far too cool for that. What we get is a deliberately paced  back and forth time structure, where he uses visual cues to make sure we know where (and when) we are. It’s a neat little trick he used on Traffic and it works well here. We have warm yellow hues for the Barcelona job, cool icy blues for the escape in the New York state foothills, and greens and greys for hotel takedown in Dublin. That said, the story isn’t exactly complicated and if you need these cues to follow what little there is of the plot, you might be a little, well, slow.

Soderbergh assembled a hell of a cast – Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, and Bill Paxton as Mallory’s father – and they all handled themselves as ably as you would expect. But what of Carano herself? Personally, I think Soderbergh’s faith may have been misplaced. She’s not awful, just a little soulless. If the rumours are true about Soderbergh and Carano going back and doing extensive ADR to coach a better performance, then the time wasn’t wasted. She’s not a wooden block, like Van Damme or Arnie, just a little flat.

I don’t want to be a complete Debbie Downer on the film because it’s not bad by any means. I really enjoyed the Dublin set-piece. It felt different and new when compared to the usual US plasticky identikit fare. The fight scenes (which were the reason we were so interested in the first place) are visceral and downright vicious. Carano is slammed into walls and through tables, she chokes foes with her thighs and breaks arms with realistic takedowns. The brutality of some of the punches thrown at Carano made me cringe, making me question if I would react the same if was your typical man vs. man fight. So, yeah, not your usual action flick.

Haywire is fun enough, but I left the cinema somewhat disappointed. Neither Soderbergh’s effortless sheen or David Holmes’ score can help a simplistic story and a very average central performance from Carano. It’s all a little slight. What’s left is probably the coolest straight-to-DVD movie in the world.

Haywire is in cinemas now.

More Reviews:

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Melancholia

Coriolanus

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

The Parallax View

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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