Cinema Review: Haywire

thems' fightin' words

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

Haywire – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lU_v6Wl3tBw

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Cinema Review: Red State

Kevin Smith in movie-that-isn't-a-comedy shock

DIR/WRI: Kevin Smith • PRO: Jonathan Gordon • DOP: David Klein • ED: Kevin Smith • DES: Cabot McMullen • CAST: Michael Parks, Melissa Leo, John Goodman, Michael Angarano

Since the heyday of Clerks and Mallrats, director Kevin Smith has become somewhat of a cult figure in his own right, utilising social media to perfection to ensure that he is never off the radar of fans and critics alike. Whether or not you’re an avid fan of his movies, you will doubtless have heard of them, or the man himself, as he proves himself to be the master of media. But beneath the tweets about sex, getting stoned, or his wife’s breasts, lies an incredibly savvy business man who understands the mounting importance of the media, particularly social media. As such, despite the inevitable critical whining, it’s impossible to stifle a smile when you see his Twitter username (ThatKevinSmith) appearing on the poster for his latest cinematic offering Red State.

Red State is Smith’s foray into the ever-popular horror genre, with some heavy political undertones. The script is also written by Smith, and has been in development for some time, as hype has built to breaking point, making this one of the most eagerly anticipated horror movies of 2011. We follow a group of teens who follow an online invitation for sex, but encounter a group of religious fundamentalists who have a slightly more sinister agenda than what the teens had in mind.

Red State brings the horror genre back to its roots. It is a tense, and gruelling experience which is sure to shock, but for all the right reasons. Here we have a movie which portrays something truly horrific to us, but that something is already taking root in our society. Horror is a genre which plays on societal fears, and explodes them, taking what we often feel to be safe, and making it unsafe. Here, the fear is the internet, and the notion of religion taken to the extremes. These are common motifs in horror movies, but here for the first time, they are played out in a believable way, one which makes an impact on the audience long after the credits roll.

This is not the finest movie you’ll see all year, and often contains some slivers of questionable acting (Kyle Gallner that means you) as well as some dialogue that is over-done. It is however, one of the most unexpectedly affecting movies of the year. Smith is truly the new master of satire and the media, and his invitation to members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church to attend a screening verifies his God-like status. Smith may be a cult icon, but here he proves himself more than worthy of the title. Here the horror genre is utilised to perfection. Smith knew what he wanted to say, and the horror genre is the ideal way to get this message across.

Red State is undoubtedly the smartest movie Smith has ever made, and shows a newly developed understanding of the mechanics of filmmaking on every level. His tongue-in-cheek nod to Twitter on the movie’s poster shows an acknowledgement of the media’s propensity to violence, but also knowledge of people’s trust in social media, he knows that people will find him through his username, and that he will then hold them in the palm of his typing hand. Here is political satire at its subtle finest, and critics who claim that he is rotting his own directing brain with chemicals will ultimately find their way to Twitter, and may even enjoy the ride.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 18 (seeIFCO websitefor details)

Red State is released on 30th September 2011

Red State – Official Website

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