Theatrical Review: Haywire

While I don’t necessarily consider myself a writer first and foremost, I surely do love talking about movies and writing what I think is pretty reasonable commentary and criticism of them.  Some days though, it can almost be like having your teeth pulled…

… and then other days, a gem like Haywire comes around and I just want to scream to the world about it.  To say that I just “liked” this one would be a bit of an understatement.

Now, I admit to a bias on this; ever since I saw the trailer for it in September, I’ve been eagerly awaiting seeing it in theatres. Haywire is the latest movie from the highly prolific Steven Soderbergh, who just happens to be one of my favorite filmmakers.  It’s his first pure “action” film, and so I couldn’t wait to see what he did with it.  Add to this that it’s also the first feature film for Mixed Martial Artist Gina Carano, who I was just entranced with after seeing her as part of NBC’s revival of American Gladiators a few years ago.  And taking it even further, this movie came about when Soderbergh, just by accident, happened to catch one of Carano’s fights on television.  Soderbergh was just as entranced by Carano and stuck the idea of making a movie specifically for her in his mind.  Now take this even further, and I find out later that it’s a reunion between Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs, who Soderbergh worked with on another one of his great movies, The Limey. Mix this whole combination together and you get one really slick piece of entertainment starring a woman who should become the next big deal in Hollywood.

Carano plays Mallory Kane, a former Marine who now works as an “independent contractor” for covert operations for the United States.  Mallory’s just been involved in the retrieval of a particular person, and she’s thought that the job went well and is about to move on to the next job provided by her handler, Kenneth.  The thing is, Kenneth has other plans about his future and this job becomes his opportunity to take out the one person who knows just a little too much about him, that person being Mallory Kane.  Now Mallory’s on the run and trying to find out just why she’s been set up.

It sounds pretty simple and it is, but the way Soderbergh has made this and the way Dobbs wrote it, there’s nuance all the way through with a pretty complete picture of just who Mallory is and just what she’s capable of.  This movie doesn’t have the budget of, say Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol but it still delivers the thrills in a big way.  The look of the film is extremely slick and Soderbergh shoots the action scenes the way you want to see them; with his camera pulled back and you being able to see the complete action.  Adding to the slickness of this whole production is a terrific score from musician David Holmes, who’s previously worked with Soderbergh on Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven and all of the Ocean’s sequels.  I cannot say enough about just how cool the music is in this film, it really gives this action piece it’s own unique flavor and makes me want to own the soundtrack.

Soderbergh has assembled quite the cast for this production.  You’ve got a great foundation of talent to give Carano excellent support.  This cast includes Michael Fassbender (one of my very favorite actors out there right now), Ewan MacGregor, Channing Tatum (easily the best thing I’ve seen him in in quite awhile), Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas.  All of these guys do solid work here and even though their parts vary in size, just having guys like this in the film gives it even more substance.

But make no mistake, the real star of this film is Gina Carano, and even with this excellent supporting cast, she does indeed carry the film.  Where to start?  Well, obviously her athletic skills should make her a pure natural for this, but you need more than that to make her a magnetic character and that’s obviously where Soderbergh comes in.  George Clooney was certainly respected before he made Out of Sight, but when he made that film with Soderbergh, he turned himself entirely over to the director and Soderbergh in turn raised Clooney’s game considerably.  Since then, the two have went on to collaborate on more films (including the Ocean’s series, and Clooney’s star has just shown brighter as a result of it.  To me, it looks like Carano is doing the same thing; she’s turned herself entirely over to Soderbergh and Soderbergh in turn knows just how to make her at her very best for the film.  But then you have her natural skills and when you see her in a fight sequence here, it’s totally authentic.  And going even further, Gina Carano is just drop-dead gorgeous.  There’s a couple of sequences in the film which call for her to be dolled-up and dressed to the nines and as far as I’m concerned, she gives someone like an Angelina Jolie a run for her money.  I’m a big comic book fan and there’s certainly been a lot of talk about a Wonder Woman movie being made at various times.  Well, if this movie gets made, Gina Carano would be an ideal candidate for the job.  I really hope this is just the start for her and cannot wait to see what she does next in film.

I just had a blast with Haywire. It’s tightly made and Steven Soderbergh looks like he’s having a blast giving us his version of an action film.  It’s been rumored that after his next three movies, he might be going into retirement, and while I can understand that, I hope he doesn’t do it.  I still think he’s one of the very best filmmakers out there and it’s always nice to see him stretching his wings.  Gina Carano is a star in the making and if her work with Soderbergh is any indication, I certainly hope that this is just the start of a new career for her in movies (and hopefully not just action pieces).  I saw this with a group of four other friends and we all had a terrific time.  Haywire is terrific entertainment and highly, highly recommended.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

22. January 2012 by Darren Goodhart
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