Despite Triteness, 'Haywire' Stays Engaging
Over the years, Steven Soderbergh has proven to be an incredibly diverse director. He has shown himself adept in virtually any genre, from relationship drama in Sex, Lies and Videotape to crime caper with Out of Sight and Ocean’s 11, to comedy with The Informant! Now, with Haywire, Soderbergh tackles another common genre â€“ the spy thriller. It’s unfortunate that he chose to do it with such a bland script; rather than shaking things up with an original story line, we get yet another â€œgood agent done wrongâ€ tale of vengeance. But Haywire is still a solid piece of filmmaking, if only because Soderbergh brings his unusual brand of hipness to the table.
I might as well just admit up front that there’s nothing in Haywire that hasn’t already been done to death thousands of times before. Why on Earth this story was greenlighted with such a talented director and exceptional cast I’ll never figure out. Who knows â€“ Soderbergh is a busy guy, maybe he never got around to seeing Hanna, Kick-Ass, or virtually any other action movie ever made. The unimaginativeness is mostly in the script, with our heroine even uttering â€œI’m through running!â€ at one point. And it’s not sarcasm.
In this case, said heroine is agent Mallory Kane (whose name alone sounds like a video game character), a private contractor hired by the government and then, surprise! â€“ double crossed! â€“ by the very people supposedly protecting her. Of course, this is one girl who won’t take such nonsense lying down, or sitting, or even standing still. In fact from the first fight scene early in the film onwards, she’s pretty much always on the move in one form or another. This means that at a lean 98 minutes, the movie is paced nicely.
Kane is played by Gina Carano, a famous (if you’re into that sort of thing) Mixed Martial Arts fighter, who seems pretty uncomfortable on screen whenever she’s not beating somebody senseless. But I’d be uncomfortable too if my first real acting role was opposite the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Michael Fassbender. Oh, and Channing Tatum and Antonio Banderas are also in this. Soderbergh continues the trend of securing a stellar cast for his movies.
Mercifully, the story takes a backseat to the director’s trademark filmmaking style. Fans of his muted lighting and playfulness with chronology won’t be disappointed. During high action scenes Soderbergh even forsakes the pervasive jazz music, choosing instead to highlight each bone-crunching punch, which lends a sense of reality to the scene. One particularly great sequence is a foot chase that includes extended shots of Carano running, with her labored breathing and heavy footfall as the sole soundtrack.
I was actually more disappointed in the fight scenes than anything else, since this seems to be the main selling point of the film. Carano undoubtedly shows off some pretty impressive moves, but I couldn’t help but feel it was just that â€“ showing off. The result is a collection of fights that seem more choreographed than organic. One thing I will say is that Soderbergh does a good job of keeping the audience guessing. You never quite know when somebody is going to just haul off and karate chop Mallory out of nowhere, which keeps you engaged.
I won’t give anything away â€“ you can probably guess everything that happens from the trailer â€“ but I will say that even though at its core there’s nothing out of the ordinary here, I’ll take a Soderbergh flick with an incredible cast over the basic Hollywood junk any day. And in fact, it’s fun to see how higher-profile directors approach such a tried and true genre. Here’s hoping Woody Allen gets around to action sometime soon.