Although the film fails to live up to its full potential, Haywire features excellent fight choreography that makes the most of the film’s star Gina Carano. The mixed martial arts fighter is completely believable in the role of a trained assassin, and shows she has the potential to become a huge star in the action genre.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven and Contagion) and written by Lem Dobbs (Dark City and The Limey), the film stars Carano, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Bill Paxton.
The film’s plot is familiar and sees assassin Mallory Kane (Carano) betrayed by the company she works for and the government agents who hire them to handle the black op assignments that never make it into the newspapers.
The storyline jumps back and forth between Kane’s attempt to get back to the U.S.; her revenge on her handlers for their betrayal; and an assignment that went wrong and left her tagged for termination. It also features lots of scenes where Carano takes out other agents in very tightly shot hand-to-hand combat.
There isn’t a lot of time spent on Kane’s character development or backstory into how she was brought into this world. She is close to her father (who she is trying to get to for most of the movie), and appears to have a life outside the agency – even a romance with her handler Kenneth (McGregor).
As Mallory makes her way back home, the audience manages to start getting invested in the character, but it is hard to find anything very memorable in Carano’s performance – other than her believability during the fight sequences.
It isn’t Carano’s fault that the character isn’t more memorable, but rather a failure on Soderbergh and Dobbs part to make her stand out from the other spies filling the screen – notably Matt Damon’s performance as Jason Bourne or the work Daniel Craig does as James Bond.
The film’s plot is somewhat predictable and will remind fans of the genre of the Bourne movies with shades of the grittier realistic spy films of the 70s and 80s. In fact, its color scheme, fashion and production designs seem to step right out of a 70s movie and reminded me of the production scheme and colors Soderbergh used in Contagion.
At times, it seems Soderbergh is so focused on making the film have a distinctive look and feel that he failed to concern himself with a story that borders on boring whenever there isn’t a fight sequence.
As the main star, Carano shows she has the potential to be a huge name in Hollywood and the action genre – even if her acting skills are still a bit rough. She is possibly the first truly believable female action star and it is easy for the audience to buy that she is able to cut her way through a room filled with male agents.
Carano has the mixed martial arts background needed to make the film’s fight choreography stand out, and it is during the tight shot hand-to-hand sequences (such as the fight between Carano and Fassbender or when she takes out Channing Tatum in a diner) that the film really shines.
Soderbergh makes the most of the actress’ background and doesn’t hold any punches during the sequences. Carano takes as many hits as she gives, but the audience buys the fact that she always comes up on the winning end of the fight. The sequences also keep you interested in the film – despite the way it drags whenever other actors are trying to move the story along.
As much as he uses Carano correctly, Soderbergh completely waste the rest of the talent he has in the film. At times, Douglas, Banderas, and McGregor seem confused about what the film is or what they are doing in it.
The film also suffers from choppy editing that makes the plot a tad hard to follow from time to time. The story flashes from the current time to a flashback to other aspects of the plot. While the audience is able to follow along after a few minutes, it takes a bit of work to figure out where the plot is and the choppy editing could cause some to quit the film all together.
The film looks great on Blu-ray, and the format does an excellent job of capturing all the details of Soderbergh’s production values on the film. Sadly, it is a little light on features with only a look at Carano’s journey from a mixed martial arts fighter to the screen and a feature on the men of the film.
Haywire does a great job of introducing Gina Carano and it is clear she has the talent to be a believable action star. Although I didn’t love the film as much as I wanted to, I am looking forward to seeing what Carano does next. The action sequences make the film well-worth taking the time to watch, but Haywire fails to deliver on the potential of Carano.
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