Film Review: Haywire

haywireSteven Soderbergh’s latest, Haywire, is a sleek and brutal action film that’s light on story, but isn’t really hurt by that in the slightest.

Haywire is another new genre for Soderbergh, spy/espionage/action, and he feels just at home here as he does in every film he puts out.  Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors and he doesn’t disappoint his fans in this latest effort which is a beat’em up vehicle for MMA star Gina Carano.  Like The Girlfriend Experience before it, Soderbergh finds a capable actress by pulling his star out of another medium and putting them in front of his camera in a film that plays to their strengths.  In Girlfriend Experience porn star Sasha Gray was asked to show the sexual vulnerability of a woman who has sex for a living and how that affects her life at home, here Carano is asked to punch a lot of people in the face.

Carano is fantastic at beating the crap out of her supporting actors.  Playing a contract spy that is hired out of an agency, she is forced to go it alone when she is framed for a murder and Carano is able to handle the role for the most part.  She doesn’t have the subtle range that might have elevated the part a bit, but what she lacks in raw acting she makes up in her physicality.  Lem Dobbs’ script thankfully doesn’t ask a lot from her vocally and Carano is able to use her fists to move the plot forward in most occasions.  Carano’s character, Mallory, might be a bit too good at her job for believability’s sake, but they are sure to mix in a fair share of punishment against her to balance out her invincibility complex.

Carano gets things done, but the movie is able to excel because she has so many excellent male foils to go against throughout the picture.  Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Channing Tatum all meet her in the field and they are able to hold their own with Carano when called upon.  Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton are all very good in their abbreviated roles as well and Soderbergh was smart to cast a bunch of veteran A-listers to surround his first time actress.  Like Carano, no one has a whole lot of dialogue, but the talented group of men all do their part to elevate their roles and give their characters some depth that isn’t in the script.

The film’s plot might not be the most complex or intricate tale though it is more than engaging for the length of the runtime.  Not afraid to slow things down and let the silence build the tension, the effect is very affective and Soderbergh and his editors keep the film crisp and moving forward even without dialogue to drive things forward.  The action scenes move the plot forward and there is a nice balance of action set pieces to move things forward.  We get a shoot out, a car chase, foot chases, a parkour sequence, plenty of fist fights and Carano is capable of handling everything Soderbergh throws at her.  Action junkies might be a bit turned off by the quieter moments of the film, but they should realize we don’t need an explosion every two minutes to constitute a film as an “action” movie.

One minor complaint I have, David Holmes’ score, it is very good, but it felt a bit out of place.  I might be jumping the gun on that assessment, but it seemed almost too fun at times for what was unfolding on screen.  The score might be a bit too Ocean’s-y as well, as I could have picked out that it was Holmes three notes into the work.

Haywire is the first good movie of 2012 and it just might be a great one.  I can’t wait to check this one out again and I am sure it will improve on future visits like most Soderbergh films do.  Carano is more than able to handle the physical side of the role and is just good enough on the emotional side of things.  Her supporting cast is as stellar as her fighting skills in and I wish we could get more action films from Soderbergh in the future; not holding my breath though.

Haywire is an A-

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