2012 is here and it’s kicking off with a bang! Haywire is not only one of the better action films I’ve seen in recent years, but it’s also one of the best Steven Soderbergh films ever made. The pacing is tight, the music is great and the tone walks a fine line of being both bad ass and an all-around fun film to watch. It reminds me most of his Ocean‘s trilogy, but with more action. Gina Carano makes a strong impression on the acting world with her impressive physical abilities and guys like Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor continue to display their acting skills in supporting roles that are just as important as Carano’s. Haywire is the best film I’ve seen so far this year and it will probably remain that way for the next coming months.
Setup, double crossed and left for dead; Mallory (Gina Carano) is a black ops super soldier that’s looking for some revenge. After a hostage deal went down without a hiccup she’s quickly assigned a mission in which she must play eye-candy while another talented agent discusses business with an important higher up. Everything appears to be going fine until they return to the hotel room and begin throwing each other through shelves, TV’s, doors and tables.
Mallory is not on the run though; she’s the one doing the hunting, looking for Kenneth (Ewan McGregor); the man who supposedly hung her out to dry. The closer Mallory gets to Kenneth the more the truth unfolds, opening even more loose ends. Haywire firmly plants its feet in the slick world of espionage. It’s a classy spy film that isn’t afraid to drop some humor into the situation. It’s like the crossing of Soderbergh’s Ocean‘s films with the popular Matt Damon Bourne films; only Haywire is toned down, playing off as more realistic and much more brutal.
This is the Soderbergh film I’ve been waiting for. Haywire is not your typical big budget action film, full of explosions and holey plots. It’s instead a spy thriller with impressive hand-to-hand combat scenes, but more importantly an airtight story that never deviates from the focus. It starts out in present time and kicks to flashbacks as Mallory tells her story to an innocent bystander named Scott (Michael Angarano). She breaks down her recent missions and what exactly went wrong. Soderbergh uses this time to show his talented work behind the camera, providing you with pulled back and extended fighting sequences that are so effectively executed.
The story doesn’t get as deep and intricate as Traffic, it’s something that could essentially be written on a napkin (a big one, double sided) or told during a short car ride, but it provides the right amount of motive to get behind it. It doesn’t insult your intelligence with an overly confusing plot that essentially leads to something predictably dull. Haywire is more of your classic spy thriller, with your main character on a mission to get who betrayed her. There’s some history added in as she gets closer to her target, but the film plays it very straight-forward.
Gina Carano admittedly is no star actress. The weakest part of the entire film is her brief dialogue, but Soderbergh being the genius that he is realizes that very early on and instead of trying to stretch Carano’s lines beyond her limit of comfortably and believability, he surrounds her by heavyweights like Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender. He also keeps her silent and follows the old saying action speaks louder than words. Carano isn’t mimicking Gosling’s quiet and cool Driver in Drive; instead she’s just one of those people that doesn’t really need to say anything. When she speaks, she means it; the rest of the speaking is done with the heavy amounts of ass-kicking she supplies the film with.
Soderbergh finally utilizes his all-star cast with Haywire. I felt the weakest point in his last film, Contagion, was the lack of adding any depth to all of his characters. It seemed like he only cast people just to say they were in the film, but with Haywire it’s the complete opposite. Every single character has a purpose and is needed to help tell the greater story. Michael Fassbender takes what could have been a throw away role and adds some dimension to it. His character Paul is the one assigned to take out Mallory and while at first he just provides his usual charm, later on in the films flashbacks we’re given a look at his real character, which brings some meaning to his last lines of dialogue to Mallory before getting crotch pillow shot to the skull. No, I didn’t spoil anything because his death is revealed in almost all of the trailers.
Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor provide every other needed aspect in the film. Douglas is the government official who’s more worried about getting things sealed up before they get out of hand. Tatum is a fellow agent in the field, who is originally another gun for hire, but later realizes what friendship means in this particular line of business. McGregor plays another slimy backstabber, who doesn’t really care about loyalty or mutual respect. It’s all about the money for him.
Haywire is an achievement for the action genre. It’s structured with such appreciation and understanding for the genre by Steven Soderbergh. The weakest link in the film is Carano’s wooden dialogue, but Soderbergh covers it up with long shots of comfortable silence and tightly filmed action. He understands the meaning of an all-star cast and uses the rest of his key players to help assist Carano in her time of acting need. The music has a retro 70’s spy feeling to it and the camerawork is steady and extended.
The fighting is choreographed perfectly, with just the right amount of bad ass and believability. It feels real and hits very hard. Soderbergh, unlike most directors working today, understands how to capture action, pulling back the camera and extending/relaxing the shots, which allows the viewer to both, enjoy the action and watch how smart-fully planned out everything is.
If there’s one movie you should see this year so far it is Haywire. Forget wasting your time with non-ending horror movies or pointless sequels to vampire films. If you want to see an action film made properly and full of some of the best hand-to-hand work since Tony Jaa‘s The Protector and Ong Bak films, check out Haywire. You’ll be proud to know that Americans can still make smart action films that don’t need a shaky cam or dozens of side-plots to remain interesting and entertaining. This is what popcorn films should be.
Haywire – 9/10