Monday, January 23, 2012

Haywire Gives Confusion the Boot


It is rather peculiar that a film of Haywire’s quality would be released so early in the year. January has been notoriously known as the dumping ground for many studios. It is usually time of year when films that the studios have very little faith in are released in order to make a few quick bucks. In 2012 studios really seem to be going after fans of the action and horror genres with the release of films like The Devil Inside, Contraband, Underworld: Awakening, and the aforementioned Haywire. While I cannot speak on the other films, I can say if you are looking for an entertaining way to kill an hour and a half then Haywire is the film for you.

Haywire focuses on Malloy Kane (Gina Carano), a covert operative who is sent to Barcelona to facilitate a hostage rescue mission. Before she can relish in the success of a job well done, Mallory’s boss, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), informs her that she is to immediately go to Dublin and connect with an MI6 agent (Michael Fassbender) for her next assignment. When things take a turn for the worst, Mallory finds herself on the run as a international manhunt for her commences. Determined to uncover who double crossed her, Mallory will stop at nothing to get answers. Even if this means literally fighting her way through fellow operatives, such as Aaron (Channing Tatum), local law enforcement, and whoever else dares to stand in her way.

In many ways Haywire finds director Steven Soderbergh back in the playful mode of his Ocean’s Eleven series. He sprinkles in elements of his previous films, most notably The Limey, throughout. Haywire is a film that does not offer much in the way of plot, as it plays more like a series of set ups more than anything else. However the action sequences and the overall style frequently ensure that the actual payoff always delivers at the level you expect.


One of great things about Soderbergh’s direction of Haywire is the little nuances he adds to a scene. In one scene, Mallory is unpacking boxes and placing items on a bookshelf while Kenneth is explaining the details of the mission. The camera is placed in a way that every time Kenneth explains a new, and more complicated, aspect of the mission, the camera follows Mallory as she places a new item on a lower level of the shelf. By time she reaches the third shelf all the components of her mission are revealed. Another subtle, and playful, moment from Soderbergh comes when Mallory takes a meeting with a high ranking government official, Coblenz (Michael Douglas), in airfield hangar. As Coblenz and Mallory size each other up in a verbal tête-à-tête, Soderbergh has a piece of tumbleweed roll by in the background to emphasize the old west style standoff Douglas and Carano are having.

In her first starring role, Gina Carano is electric as Mallory. The fact that she was a former mixed material arts fighter is a huge advantage over other films featuring a female lead. The fight scenes in this film feel authentic and plausible for each situation. Even when Carano adds a few “how did she do that moves?” to her repertoire, it still feels natural. When a character gets his head rammed into a bar stool or Mallory gets thrown into a wall, it feels as if the actors, and not stunt people, are taking every lump. One of the best things about Carano is that she knows how to play up her strengths and shortcomings. The film playful insinuates that looking at Mallory as a women is a grave mistake. Even Mallory herself comments on not being the girly girl. However, Carano manages to show that it is possible to be a strong individual while still being comfortable in her own skin. Caron feels like a natural successor to the Angelina Jolie throne as the next female action star.

While the plot could have been a little deeper, Haywire succeeds in delivering solid action at brisk pacing. There is enough of Steven Soderbergh’s stylistic touches to please his fans, while still managing to entertain hardcore action fans. Featuring stellar choreography and a star making turn by Carano, Haywire is every bit as entertaining as one could hope it would be.

7 comments:

  1. I just saw Haywire yesterday, and I agree with a lot of your comments. What really stuck out to me (beyond the action scenes) was the interesting angles that Soderbergh used to film a lot of the scenes like the one you mention with the unpacking. He rarely shoots from a specific perspective very long and finds really interesting ways to present the action. The shot on the beach with Mallory running up behind Kenneth is a stunning moment. Nice review.

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  2. I read a piece recently about how decent movies are starting to turn up in January. I think part of it is also Oscar-caliber films getting wider releases. I know I like to spend this time of year catching up on prestige films.

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  3. @Dan - I loved the the beach shot. It added a nice comedic effect as Kenneth is oblivious to the fight he is about to endure.

    @Rich - I usually spend January/February catching up on the Oscar films as well. I think Haywire would have done much better at the box-office had it been released in March or early April.

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  4. Nice review, glad you liked this. Such an odd thing: a worthy January release.

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  5. Gina Carano kinda freaks me out in this movie. Great physicality and she's the only one who could star in such a movie. But her voice reminds me of say, a robot trying to hug me after my father died.

    Haywire's one of Soderbergh's most accessible work. And it's strange realizing that his stuff can go from that to esoteric even if he uses the same film-making techniques.

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  6. @Paolo - I thought her cold, somewhat mechanical, voice works well for the character. I heard a rumor that Soderbergh intentionally altered Carano's voice...which might be why it sounded off to you.

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  7. @Alex - If only studios would release quality films in January more often! It might help curb the overall decline at the box-office.

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