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STUDIO: Lion’s Gate
RUNNINGS TIME: 93-minutes
- Gina Carano: From MMA to Haywire
- The Men of Haywire
This almost never works, but instead of training an actress to fight, let’s train a fighter to act.
Mixed Martial Artist Gina Carano is that fighter but not necessarily that actress. Bill Paxton, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas also appear hoping to act but mostly just fight.
The smooth stylish fighting isn’t enough to overcome the bland, diffident acting.
After announcing his supposed retirement last year, director Stephen Soderbergh made sure he’d never want to retract that statement. From male strippers to incompetent informants, Soderbergh seemingly put whatever sparked his interest to celluloid, and one of those interests, MMA superstar Gina Carano, led him to the revenge action flick Haywire. A certified film scientist, Soderbergh brings a level of class and technical flare to the genre, touching upon a hundred ideas, yet executing only half of them.
Carano stars as Mallory, a high school dropout turned super-spy, hunting, you guessed it, the spy organization who sold her out. Led by an obnoxiously nerdy Ewan McGreggor, Mallory squares off against some of the world’s top agents in a seemingly endless parade of face-offs. Like 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Haywire avoids typical plotting in lieu of series of boss battles.
The thin plotting of Haywire, stretched to an astonishing and occasionally grueling 93-minutes, may be at fault for the glaring lack of excitement within. It’s classic exploitation cinema, complete with simple one-note characters and flat line readings, as Mallory appears in a veritable hotel.com commercial, taking out Michael Fassbender in five-star luxury suites and outrunning police in the scenic Vermont wilderness. Soderbergh’s camera holds on the action and takes in the scenery, yet there’s very little forward motion. We meet Mallory at the end of a journey that has no beginning.
It wouldn’t be like Soderbergh to produce a conventional action film. With the massive success of the three Ocean’s 11 movies, he showed off his genre skills with a large cast and complicated plotting. Again, he goes for the gold. Carano squares off against stars new and old in Haywire, hitting Channing Tatum with coffee pots while on the hunt for Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. Convention be damned, Haywire empowers its lead with confidence and ability–most of which comes from Carano’s own mastery–but while her formidable foes can’t touch her, her inability to carry the plot squares her in the jaw.
Soderbergh emphasizes the fights, chases, and gun play. He turns down the score and up the sound effects, mixing fist on flesh foley sounds high into the film’s soundtrack. His camerawork is even more sparse, holding on Carano’s escapes, shifting the normal perspective of the object chasing to the subject looking. However, in the face of an unsure actress and withheld dangers, the result alienates. Carano can’t get a word out, making much of the film’s emotional resonance shaky at best.
Surprisingly, others struggle with Lem Dobbs clunky script. Ewan Mcgreggor stumbles over a bad American accent as the supposedly delightfully dubious and unfortunately monikered Kenneth. Likewise, poor Bill Paxton wads through melodramatic muck with lines like “That doesn’t sound like my Mallory,” conveyed with all its soap operatic glory. These weak readings cheapen the film; its production feeling more rushed than most of Carano’s escapes.
Ultimately, Soderbergh deconstructs an empty script, and while his experiments in perspective and editing yield interesting results, they’re not very exciting or telling. Breaking apart the aural, visual, and thematic beats of the action film interests the director. He just has the wrong script. Occasionally grabbing hold, the film only excels when the action accelerates. Otherwise, Carano and crew stiffly wander through a shell of an action movie. It’s better than whatever Steven Seagal released last week, but considering how hard it tries, it should be much, much better.
Things wind down with two lack luster special features. The first of which focuses primarily on Gina, past and present. Talking to her old MMA trainers, we learn of Gina’s talent, drive, and history. Among the first female MMA, Gina was chosen for the film after Soderbergh saw her on TV and decided to film a movie around it. As you can tell from the above 576 words, that much is definitely true. This stuff really isn’t that interesting. Her fight training is, mostly because there are guns.
Next, we meet the men of Haywire. In some brief interviews with the cast, they also talk of their interest in Gina, praising her, as well as their fight trainers. Fassbender talks about how this movie reminds of classic 80s espionage thrillers; though, since this movie isn’t really anything like Spies Like Us, we’ll have to assume he isn’t too sure what that means. Each of the stars also talk about how much they wanted to work with Steven Soderbergh, because they almost did in the past, and working with him now is a good way to work with him in their career.
The DVD doesn’t really include anything too special. Some throw away features, which will probably only interest diehard fans of Carano, and a movie that will only please the same set. Haywire‘s a picture made for the Netflix Instant era. Nothing essential here.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars