DIR: Steven Soderbergh • WRI: Lem Dobbs • PRO: Gregory Jacobs, Alan Moloney, Michael Polaire,Tucker Tooley • DOP: Peter Andrews • ED: Peter Andrews • DES: Howard Cummings • Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan Mc Gregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas
Director Steven Soderbergh has averaged a film a year since his acclaimed 1989 debut Sex, Lies & Videotape, an incredible work rate by modern filmmaking standards especially for one who frequently works within the political vagaries fof the studio system. A slippery stylist, Soderbergh’s films hop from genre to genre with creative restlessness appearing to be his defining characteristic whether filming glossy, expensive star laden confections such as the Oceans series or experimenting with digital video and unknown actors on low budget conceits such as Bubble or The Girlfriend Experience.
With Haywire – his 23rd full length feature – he takes another stylistic left turn this being an independently financed, relatively low budget B-movie style action film of which a large portion was filmed in Dublin back in 2010. Mixed martial arts star Gina Carano portrays Mallory Kane, a covert operative for hire who performs certain ‘tasks’ for shady global organizations such as rescuing a Chinese journalist held hostage in Barcelona which is the first instance in the film that we witness Carano’s and Mallory’s athleticism and asskicking skills as she fights her way out of a corner.
After a successful mission, Mallory is then dispatched by her handler Kenneth (Ewan Mc Gregor) to Dublin. Her mission is to assassinate an Iranian ambassador with the help of a suave British operative portrayed by Michael Fassbender but things go awry and she soon finds herself doublecrossed and left for dead. On the run, she flees back to the States where she devises a plan to exact revenge on those who’ve betrayed her.
The generic plot of Haywire could have been lifted from any ‘international’ action thriller stretching back from 1960’s to the present day. In fact, one could easily imagine Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson or James Coburn or on the lower end of the scale Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal inhabiting Carano’s role in decades past.
What makes Haywire stand out from the pack? Well probably the only thing for this reviewer were the fight scenes which crackle with realism, vigour and fluidity meaning there is none of the fast editing/shakycam technique that has become the signature style of Hollywood action films since the success of the Bourne franchise. Obviously the fact that Carano is quite a formidable physical presence in her own right adds to the believability of these expertly choreographed confrontations and we get a sense of the sweat, the struggle and pain of close combat in Soderbergh’s long takes.
The film makes light use of a fairly heavyweight cast: Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas in particular come and go, act in a couple fo scenes and then leave without making much of an impression. Of course, Carano is the star here and Soderbergh is subverting a male dominated genre so maybe the point is to make these iconic actors subservient so that their mere presence doesnt detract or overwhelm the female lead. Fassbender makes the strongest impression but then he does get to take on Carano in a violent hotel room one on one.
So as a showcase for Carano’s natural abilities, sultry good looks and relaxed screen presence, the film is enjoyable but outside of the action, the film feels rather lethargic, which is only exacerbated by the rather flat dialogue and understated David Holmes score. It feels like a detached exercise rather than a project which the director was passionate about, a chance for him to develop his skillset in another genre and while there is certainly nothing wrong with a stripped down action film too often Haywire feels diffuse and perfunctory.
Derek Mc Donnell
Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Haywire is released on 20th January 2012