Released: 20th January 2012
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor
For the last few weeks I’ve been really looking forward to watching Haywire. Coming from the mind of Steven Soderbergh – the man behind Crash and Ocean’s Eleven – it excited me to see how he would handle a no-nonsense revenge thriller.
The decision to cast MMA Fighter Gina Carano as the tough, merciless protagonist delighted me – partly because she’s absolutely gorgeous, and partly because I’ve seen Gina show off her moves in various MMA tournaments. Unfortunately, Carano pretty much carries this film on her back the entire time, weighed down by Soderbergh’s penchant for stylish simplicity and his very vanilla approach to such a traditionally visceral genre.
See, Haywire wants to be a character driven piece – casting talent such as Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Ewan MacGregor in various supporting roles – but this attempt is starkly counteracted by the complete lack of development in any of the aforementioned characters. I had no idea who half these people were in relation to Carano’s ass-kicking agent Mallory Kane, and any semblance of storyline was just info-dumped into your head like an upturned cement mixer.
When the action kicks in, and seeing as though Carano is a proven real-life brawler, she’s much more believable in the various fight scenes than other recent female actionettes such as Hanna or Salt, and this helps her stand out from the gallery of other, mostly forgettable characters in Haywire. These action scenes, however, avoid the stylistic flair that the rest of the film relies on, instead showing us music-free brawls that lack the impact they so desperately need.
Haywire is a difficult one to rate for me, because I’m not sure whether I only enjoyed it because I enjoy looking at Carano. She is a killer screen presence and deserves to appear in many more projects after this – if only to see her at her full, bone-snapping potential. She chews up every scene she’s in and spits it out onto the ground – even when sharing the screen with a great established actor like Fassbender.
Ultimately though, I think this type of film was the wrong choice for a director like Soderbergh. As a rule, the revenge thriller is a notoriously kinetic, fast-paced subgenre, so this rather restrained and melancholic approach seems to be constantly at odds with itself for the entire run-time. Some will love Haywire, some will hate it, and some will swing violently between both extremes . I’m pretty sure I fall into the latter category.
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