I wrote a bit on Haywire way back in June before the marketing machine went into top gear wondering why this film wasn’t on the radar. With a director like Steven Soderbergh and a cast that includes marquee heavy names like Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Bill Paxton all teaming up with experienced MMA fighter and ex-American Gladiator Gina Carano, how could this film get made so quietly?
It’s a moot point now because as of last weekend, we finally got to see what Soderbergh and Co. have been up to. It was a risky move casting Carano in the lead, and the question is, did it pay off?
It’s a bit of a complicated answer really, because Soderbergh isn’t known for action films. His films have a certain stylized feel to them that is present in pretty much any movie he makes. You know it’s a Soderbergh film just by watching it and this isn’t a style that one would think goes well with action. I guess you could equate it to chocolate and chili powder. One wouldn’t think they marry well together, but they do. The same holds true here.
Written by Lem Dobbs (Dark City, The Limey), the story focuses on Mallory Kane. Mallory is a highly trained and requested covert operative who takes on a mission that results in being set up and betrayed by her boss and ex-boyfriend, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). She goes on the lam to get to the bottom of the conspiracy while having to dodge obstacles that Kenneth and the higher-ups throw her way.
While the story isn’t ground breaking, it does lend for Carano to shine in the manner in which she’s meant. The fight scenes. Soderbergh’s visual style also made this film feel less like star-studded action movie by giving it a grittier feel. It feels like a Soderbergh film, just with serious ass-kicking scenes. One of the things Soderbergh does is overlay unfolding scenes with music. This technique was present more than once and it’s not a bad thing per se, I just always find it interesting when this technique is used. Especially during a point in the film that drives the plot.
The story also didn’t really allow for much by way of character development. Those looking for a huge character driven piece will most likely leave feeling disappointed. Bringing a newcomer out of the ring and on to the screen could have been disastrous under a lesser director’s tutelage, but luckily for Carano, she had Soderbergh. The role of Mallory didn’t call for too much emoting aside from anger, but those emotions that her character had to experience, Carano was able to handle. It will be interesting to see how Carano’s acting career develops. I’m all for the strong female lead, and knowing this gal can handle herself with the big boys, and even kick their asses is a bonus.
As for the fight scenes, well, they are probably some of the best you’ll see. Opting for substance over style, Soderbergh delivered more than one brutal, cringe-inducing fight scenes I’ve seen in recent memory. The key to this was how these scenes used their natural environment sounds instead of music or amplified sound effects. The grunts, groans, punches, kicks and everything else that goes with an ass-beating was on display for your listening pleasure. Gina Carano has some serious skills, that’s obvious, and the fight scenes were the best part of the film.
While the supporting casts boasts rather large name actors, I can’t say anything they did really stood out aside from a couple of their fight scenes. Michael Fassbender stands out the most, but he’s captivating to watch in anything. As is Ewan McGregor. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m a sucker for Bill Paxton. His role was minor, but I love him just the same.
For those movie-goers looking for a big budget action film, this is not the film for you. It’s rather subdued through out and may even bore those action film junkies who want big explosions and loud fight scenes. I guess you could call this the mellow person’s action film if that makes any sense at all.
I didn’t love this film, nor did I hate it. When asked if it was any good I could only reply with “it was ok.” My major complaint is that the 93 minute run time felt like it was twice as long, which is never a good sign. Take it at face value for what it is, which is a vehicle to showcase Carano as a lean, mean, fighting machine, and you may be ok. Check out the trailer below if you’re still having trouble deciding.Tags: Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Gina Carano, Haywire, Haywire review, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, MMA, Steven Soderbergh