– Summary –
Director : Steven Soderbergh
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas.
Approx Running Time : 110 Minutes
Synopsis: Something about a government operative gone rogue, and some back-room dealings in setting her up to be killed. And some fighting, running and driving.
What we think : Stilted, stifling, dull Soderbergh project limps across the finish line in spite of Gina Carano, the MMA star who graces this film with her unique set of skills. If I’m to get the story right, Carano plays some kind of operative employed by a Government contractor, and is usually tasked with extraction or execution of subjects at her employer’s request. Soderbergh’s style doesn’t lend itself well to the wannabe Jason Bourne genre, and his Indie-film shooting style lacks real punch, effectively abandoning the visceral nature of the narrative for a head-space clearing journey through scenic Dublin, ice-bound upstate New York, and Barcelona. Haywire isn’t as energetic as its title might suggest – the film is more of a dead fuse than a shorting circuit.
Don’t be fooled: the title to this misleadingly advertised “action” film is nothing of the sort. Steven Soderbergh’s foray into an action/thriller is anything but either of those two components. The vaunted skills of Mixed Martial Arts star Gina Carano, pulled out of the cage fighting arena she passionately ascribes to, are given very little to do here; she kicks butt at times, but there’s something ambivalent about Soderbergh’s direction here that just leaves any tension, any dramatic momentum, evaporating from the screen. Haywire is probably best served describing how audiences might feel having been duped into thinking they’re gonna see something they’re simply not. Look, as a film, it’s not terrible. There are elements of it that feel gritty and real, but the overall narrative and dimly plotted characters, together with Carano’s rather wooden performance style (she’s not an actor, really) leaves one wondering exactly what Soderbergh might have been thinking when he had the inclination to make a film like this.
Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is an operative for a Government-sponsored company which outsources “operations” like handling dissidents and making people “disappear”. After the failure of a previous mission, in which she’s nearly killed, her company sends Adam (Channing Tatum) to a meeting place in New York State to pick her up and “deal” with her. Her immediate boss, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) is in trouble with his superiors, a man named Coblenz (Michael Douglas), whose dealings with a Spanish operative named Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas) are central to the issue. While in Dublin on assignment, Mallory is partnered with fellow agent Paul (Michael Fassbender), who is also tasked with “dealing” with Mallory as well – Mallory kills Paul, then goes on the run to hunt down Kenneth and those she sees as being able to clear her name.
I’m sure Gina Carano is a very nice lady. I’ve never met her, but in researching this review I did locate a couple of YouTube videos of her MMA cage fights – wowee, this chick is tough. Pity the film doesn’t really give us that same kind of kineticism and energy. Soderbergh has done a good thing by casting an actual action “star” of sorts as the lead in his “action” film, but Carano is no actress, nor is she really given enough to do throughout the film that makes the most of her skills. Instead of multiple bouts of hand-to-hand combat and kick-ass action, Carano spends most of the time wandering about Barcelona, running over the Dublin skyline and evading capture, and giving a pretty average account of herself in a car chase in upstate New York. She spends an inordinate amount of time escaping and running, but not that much time doing what we wanted to see her doing: kicking ass. There’s a couple of moments, brief as they are, when she takes down both Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender (not simultaneously, mind you), and her beach-set fight with Ewan McGregor feels more like a schoolyard brawl than anything else, but primarily as a result of the way in which Soderbergh shoots, the film feels quite taciturn.
Alongside Garano in this film is a fairly decent male support cast – including Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum, neither of whom are unknown to audiences today. Tatum, as Adam, is probably the most accessible member of the cast, even moreso than Gerano herself, I might add, although the rest of the dudes do their best. Michael Fassbender plays creepy so very well, and he does so again here, yet his role is virtually inconsequential to the film as a whole – he has a showdown with Gerano, which is brutal but uninteresting – and it feels like he’s in the movie simply to get another credit on his CV. Michael Douglas does solid work as a secretive Washington power player, while Antonio Banderas gives us the beardiest performance of his life as some kind of corrupt Spanish operative – Banderas’s role is confusingly opaque, while Douglas at least delivers the typically sketchy “behind the scenes shadowy power-player” with aplomb. Bill Paxton has little to do as Mallory’s father other than look and sound like a sex predator. True story.
The core issue with Haywire is that we just don’t care about these people. Nobody in the film, not Carano, McGregor or Tatum are even remotely interesting, and Soderbergh’s too busy with Dublin-set chase scenes to bother with things like an actual plot. The film might be clutter-free from an action perspective, but that means it’s also lacking in the things the audience want to see: high stakes action with some great stunt work and brutal fight scenes. The fight scenes within Haywire are brutal, but they’re meaningless without some kind of explanation to the story. It’s like the characters are there just to do stuff that looks cool or sounds cool, but without a story to give to the audience that’s more than simply “she’s a spy” and “he needs to be killed”, the film flounders.
Summing this film up in a single word, I’d describe it as boring. Flat, uninteresting characters – especially Carano herself – and tepid, try-to-be-cool direction from Soderbergh eliminates any and all tension the film might have enjoyed. It’s sleepy-Bourne stuff here, folks, a lazy, hubris-laden effort from Soderbergh that falls flatter than one of Garano’s MMA opponents with a left foot to the jaw. Haywire is as energetic as cold soup, as exciting as being dead, and as stylish as last weeks furniture catalogue. Avoid this one.