Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Starring Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano and Michael Douglas.
Betrayed by her employers, agent Mallory Kane must fight to clear her name.
Part two of Stephen Soderbergh’s speedy return to filmmaking post-Che, Haywire has very little in common with Contagion. Testament, maybe, to the director’s ability to transcend genres, although if Haywire is anything to go by, this jack of all trades approach can yield mixed results.
Former ‘Gladiator’ and MMA fighter Gina Carano, as Mallory Kane, an agent double-crossed by Ewan McGregor’s agency boss Ken, is the heart of the film, and given her lack of experience she does rather well. Casting a non-actor in the lead role of a major Hollywood production was always going to be a risky move, but in this case it seems to have paid off. Haywire may have problems, but Carano isn’t one of them. Soderbergh is wise to let her play to her strengths. Her dialogue is kept to a minimum, and there’s no serious love interest tacked on, freeing her up to do what she’s undeniably good at; fighting. And fight she does, with government agents, policemen and co-workers, and there’s something undeniably thrilling about the way she moves, acrobatic yet rough, the fighting is the most effective thing in the film. The supporting cast are decent enough – Channing Tatum does surly well and Michael Fassbender is never anything less than brilliant.
The plot, however, is nigh-on irrelevant. Major developments take place off-screen; we’re whisked to a new country every ten minutes and some characters seem to exist solely to stick the likes of Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas on the poster. The framing device of Kane relaying her story to her hostage is largely pointless. The script too is afflicted with more than a few clichés and clumsy lines like “you better run” and “I haven’t shut my eyes since you were born.”
The action, often brutally effective in a Bourne-esque way, occasionally descends into the realm of the over-choreographed, highly-stylised fare one would expect from something like The Transporter series. It’s as if they were unsure of how to pitch it, and resolved to play it somewhere down the middle. Scenes like Carano’s fight with Michael Fassbender’s hired hand are hugely impactful in their bone-crunching violence, but then David Holmes’ wholly unsuitable funky, finger-clicking score comes back in and all of a sudden it’s Ocean’s Eleven. If Haywire had stuck to one style it might have been something more interesting than the final product; as it is, we’re left with an uneasy amalgamation of the two, veering from breezy caper to gritty thriller without ever finding its feet.
And yet, despite all of these limitations, there’s something oddly likeable about Haywire. Maybe it’s the purity of its ambitions; It wants to be a satisfying, fun thriller, while exhibiting the talents of Carano, and save for some stylistic confusion it mostly achieves this, or perhaps it’s brevity: clocking in at just over 80 minutes, it’s not around long enough to outstay it’s welcome. There are two or three genuinely entertaining sequences, the Fassbender fight and a scene in her father’s house being particular standouts, and the final scene is nicely played. Make no mistake: Haywire has its drawbacks, and compared to something like Bourne it’s largely forgettable. But take it as what it is: a B-movie with a budget, and it’s good fun. And keep an eye on Carano, she has the potential to become a genre mainstay.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★