by Ryan Allen
R. 93 min. Relativity Media. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas.
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 1, 2012.
Haywire plays out as a mélange of well-choreographed combat and terse dialogue, complete with a jazzy soundtrack and multi-city backdrop. Director Steven Soderbergh makes good use of a lead character that lacks emotional depth, portraying her instead as a stoic, pugnacious and pissed-off double-crossed agent.
Mixed-martial-arts fighter Gina Carano plays Mallory Kane, a laconic, operative working for a government-contracted private company. When someone within Kane’s own company attempts to frame and kill her, she must navigate her way back to those responsible and take out those responsible.
The movie opens in a café and grocery, where Kane meets with Aaron (Channing Tatum), another agent sent to pick her up and bring her in. Kane brings up missions in Barcelona and Dublin repeatedly, but Aaron doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about. Neither does the audience, so it comes as a surprise when Aaron viciously attacks her. Kane demonstrates her swift, athletic dexterity when she wraps her legs against Aaron and promptly beats the crap out of him.
That Carano rarely talks during the film is a good thing. She’s a mediocre actor, but an incredible fighter. Soderbergh smartly trains a still camera on her during each fighting sequence. Because Carano can easily dish out high-flying kicks, wall-spins and a myriad of other epic martial-arts moves, the film never resorts to a shaky camera and the action turns out immensely better than most other thrillers.
A strong supporting cast thankfully lifts much of the “acting burden” off of Carano’s shoulders. Actors like Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street) and Michael Fassbender (who plays Paul, an MI6 agent who serves as Carano’s partner in Dublin) allow themselves to be beaten mercilessly and thrown around. Michael Douglas (Wall Street) plays Coblenz, a government agent. Ewan McGregor (Star Wars: Episode I-III) plays Kenneth, an agent within Kane’s company that orders her to pose as Fassbender’s wife in Dublin. Antonio Banderas (Spy Kids, The Mask of Zorro) plays Rodrigo, to whom Kane must deliver a hostage.
The script, written by Lem Dobbs, is surprisingly smart. The dialogue is brief and sparse, but all loose ends are still meticulously tied at the end of the film. It works because the entire film is laden with action, and not bogged down by histrionics. It’s not overly complicated, just good entertainment with enough of a story to follow.
The picture quality, though not poor, isn’t spectacular. Sodenbergh used natural light for the film, which makes it look strange at times. Some scenes occasionally looked overly bright or hazy.
The film also features a jazzy score by composer David Holmes. While the name “haywire” might lead one to assume the music is erratic and tense, the chase scenes are complemented with a light percussion beat and some short, moderately-paced riffs.
I liked Gina Carano as the lead because she can genuinely beat up anyone she chooses to. Stunt doubles weren’t necessary when she fought against people like Fassbender, and it’s easy to see why. Haywire is best when she’s hopping buildings, dispatching SWAT agents and scaling walls. Other than that, there’s not much else to it.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars.