Review: Haywire

Last year Steven Soderbergh made everyone a germaphobe with the awesomly scary Contagion and this past weekend he made his first foray into straight up action with Haywire, starring former American Gladiator and MMA fighter Gina Carano.  The movie features some fantastic fight scenes and lots of Soderbergh flourishes but the story is bare bones and, despite a ton of great actors, it falls a little flat.

Carano stars as Mallory Kane, an operative for a government contractor who is betrayed by her handler and sets out to get the truth and take down everyone responsible.  The plot is about as barebones as you can get and feels like Soderbergh accidentally got the script for a Dolph Lundgren or Seagal movie on his desk and he somehow decided to do it.  He does try to give it some sense of complexity by utilizing some non-linear storytelling for the first hour or so but there’s only one or two things to keep track of, so it’s not as complex as say, a Christopher Nolan movie.

The best part of the movie is easily the fight scenes as Gina Carano utilizes her entire MMA repitoire to snap arms and break necks.  All the fights are fast, brutal and feel realistic, helped by the fact that the music completely stops so that the only sound is the punches and kicks connecting.  The fight between Gina Carano and Michael Fassbender is the highlight of the movie as they completely destroy a hotel room and Carano attempts to throw all kinds of MMA chokes and holds on Fassbender.  Besides the fights there’s also a pretty solid escape sequence as Carano attempts to evade police in Dublin and a fast but excellent car chase on a snow covered trail in Upstate New York that ends in a completely random way (local wildlife is involved).  The movie, unfortunately, fizzles out toward the end with the final fight suffering from weird choppy editing and terrible choreography, especially compared to earlier fights in the movie.

Carano is actually surprisingly good, acting wise, in Haywire.  Soderbergh, probably smartly, doesn’t force her to do any heavy emoting but she is able to hold her own against heavy hitters like Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Ewan McGregor.  Besides Carano, Fassbender is awesome as usual as a freelance assassin hired by Carano’s superiors to eliminate her under the guise of them working together on a job.  Everyone else is surprisingly flat, which might be the fault of the no frills script but it seems like you could shuffle the actors around to different characters and the movie would still work out the same way.

One of the quirks of Steven Soderbergh that I’m not really a fan of is his insistence on crazy, 60’s style jazz scores for his movies and Haywire is no exception.  It works sometimes but other times it is completely overbearing.  There’s one sequence in the beginning where Carano and her team are breaking into a safehouse to rescue a hostage and there’s no noise except the crazy jazz score and, at least for me, it kind of made me roll my eyes at it’s pretentiousness.  The one thing I love about Soderbergh is that, regardless of quality, all of his movies look fantastic, especially now that he’s using the RED camera system and Haywire looks great.

Overall, Haywire is a decent action movie that Soderbergh somewhat sucessfully tries to class up by filling it with amazing actors and his stylistic touches.  It’s not gonna blow anyone’s minds but it has some great fights that fully utilize Gina Carano’s skills and she’s also suprisingly good as well.  I would not be opposed to seeing another Carano starring action movie, although maybe one directed by a more traditional action director.

3 out of 5

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