By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas
I am going to come out and say it right now. I have never been a fan of director Steven Soderbergh. From his unbearable Oceans 11-13 series to even his Oscar winning Traffic, I think the guy has a style that is off-putting, and conveniently always finds a way to wink at himself instead of tell a good story. However, after the presence it had at last year’s Comic Con, I was starting to think positive thoughts about his latest film, the Gina Carano-starrer Haywire. Reuniting with writer Len Dobbs, who also wrote his 1999 film The Limey, Soderbergh was adamant about the fact that he wanted to bring back the low-rent actioniers from the 80s. Except, instead of starring Seagal or Van-Damme, Haywire had Carano, a mixed martial artist who was just coming off the worst loss of her career when her phone rang and it was Soderbergh on the other line asking her to be in this film. So, the question is, did this movie live up to the Comic Con footage and hype?
The answer, is no. Carano (who is rumored to have had all her lines in the movie dubbed) plays Mallory Caine, a highly trained operative who works for a high ranking government security contractor. After she is double crossed and left for dead by someone in her own agency, Caine devises a plan to trap all the skilled assassins who are after her. After the plan goes haywire (get it?) Caine realizes she will die in the blink of an eye unless she can somehow kill all the assassins who are on her trail. Soderbergh has surrounded Carano with an awesome cast, which includes Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, a bearded Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas (who is obviously doing this film as a favor to his Traffic buddy Soderbergh).
Carano brings her best talents to the table, and is really not to blame for the failure of the film. Her fight scenes (done with a complete absence of music, which is an admittedly great decision by Soderbergh) are the grittiest I have ever seen put to celluloid. Every single one of her punches, kicks, facelocks, and headscissors are punctuated not by music, but by the impact of which they land. From the first fight scene at the beginning of the movie (which was released online a few days before the film was released) to the very end, every single one of these scenes are very nicely shot. It also doesn’t help that she is beautiful to look at, and is easy to root for. However, this leads me to one of my many beefs with the picture. Soderbergh has always used an interesting style of telling a story, which involves many flashbacks and changing of the filter (black & white, yellow filled palette). The problem is that within all of these flashbacks, there is not one that tells a story about where Caine has come from, who trained her, and how she got to where she is. Instead, he has almost no existing narrative and tells almost the entire story of the film in flashbacks, leaving you no clue as to where you are in the story at any given moment. Some people enjoy this way of storytelling, but to me, I feel it is style for the sake of style, and leaves no room to get inside the head of a character.
The talent surrounding Carano is ok. Fassbender (of X-Men: First Class) once again proves that he is a face in film that is going to be around for many years to come. Banderas does most of his acting by stroking his beard, and it was entertaining to watch Paxton in the film play Carano’s dad (wow, are we that old already?!). The music of the film, which is a cross between a David Lynch-style and Bionic Woman, grates on the nerves and becomes unbearable after awhile, while long montages of Carano walking a street to this music leave no bearing to the punctuation of the story. In the end, Haywire was exactly that. A film that had nowhere to go and knew it. While Carano definitely bears the chops to be a star of the future, and some of the backstabbings that take place in the film are entertaining to watch, I say skip it and rent one of the old 80s action flicks that Soderbergh tried and failed to conjure memories of. Who knows. Maybe by the time you get through that Steven Seagal marathon, Soderbergh will finally do what he has been saying he is going to do for years now. That is retire and leave films of today to good storytellers to tell.
2.5 out of 5