Soderbergh’s Haywire Has Punch
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2012 20 Jan
DVD Release Date: May 1, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: January 20, 2012
Rating: R (for some violence and language)
Genre: Action/Adventure, Thriller
Run Time: 93 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Actors: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Angarano, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton
Fists fly, bodies get tossed and bones break in Haywire, an action flick with a ferocious female protagonist.
Director Steven Soderbergh, known for working on both small-scale (Bubble) and big-budget star vehicles (the Ocean's series) leaves the art house far behind for this well-executed story of a private contractor wronged. The heroine spends the entirety of Haywire on the run, first explaining her plight to Scott (Michael Angarano, The Art of Getting By), a man whose car she commandeers in her efforts to figure out what’s happening to her, and then confronting the villains who thought they could use her and dispose of her.
Joining an elite list of female big-screen action heroes—Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton and Jamie Lee Curtis—Gina Carano plays Mallory Kane, a contractor engaged in shady dealings who we first meet at a roadside restaurant. No sooner has she settled into a booth than Aaron (Channing Tatum, The Dilemma) shows up, asking her what she thinks she’s up to. We’re not sure, but the movie leaves little time to ponder the back story. When it quickly becomes apparent that the talk isn’t leading to Aaron’s desired outcome, he tries to physically subdue her.
Little does he—or we in the audience—anticipate what happens next, as Mallory counterpunches, kicks and gains the upper hand in their fight. She grabs a bystander (Scott) and drives off in his car, while he sits in the passenger seat and hears her story.
Betrayals over past assignments have Mallory on the run, determined to figure out who in her inner circle has turned on her. Was it Kenneth (Ewan McGregor, Beginners)? Paul (Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre)? Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas, Puss in Boots)?
To find out, she dodges bullets, drives like a maniac and uses walls, ceilings and other obstacles to gain an advantage during physical altercations. The fights are well staged and never difficult to follow, but better still are the film’s long, dialogue-free sequences set to nothing but Haywire’s propulsive soundtrack. These sequences are surprising in a mainstream action film, but they never lose the audience. Soderbergh once again is using the medium to show viewers how much more interesting a scene can be when viewers have to engage with what they’re watching rather than having everything spelled out for them. The audience doesn’t have to settle for less, even when it comes to commercial cinema, he seems to be saying.
The character development in Haywire could use some work, but isn’t that usually the case with action films, even the good ones? Soderbergh works hard to keep the film moving. We don’t have much time to wonder about what brought Mallory to this desperate moment, and when the explanation comes, Soderbergh does his best to keep it from being a long-winded, one-character monologue.
Haywire isn’t as sly as Soderbergh’s Out of Sight, which starred George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez and had romantic tension that’s mostly missing from Haywire. But it shows that the skillful director can elevate genre pieces that, in lesser hands, would have been uglier and harder edged. Haywire can be tough and violent, although those familiar with action films won’t be fazed by what they see. Although revenge motivates Mallory, her actions could be construed as a form of self-defense against those who seek to harm her.
Still, there’s no great moral to this story, just some memorable moments that are surprisingly good relative to so many other movies in the same genre.
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; the “f” word; “s-it”; “hell”; “sucks.”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: A character asks for a beer; Scott asks Mallory if she’s in the drug business; wine drinking; cigar smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: Mallory pushes Aaron against the wall, kisses him and unbuckles his belt; the next scene cuts to Mallory in a robe, but it’s several days later; male character is shown bare-chested, with a towel wrapped around his waist; a brief glimpse through a shower door of a woman showering; a woman shown in a bikini; a man’s shirt is unbuttoned and his chest exposed; verbal allusions to past intimate relationships.
- Violence/Crime: Several hard-hitting fight scenes; Mallory asks Scott to fix her arm as she drives; explosions; a corpse with a bullet wound in his forehead; a character is shot in the head at close range; reckless driving, with the police in pursuit; a dead body is shown, with blood pooling around its head and splattered on a nearby vehicle.
- Religion/Morals: A character explains what he does by saying, “The motive is always money.”
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