When I think of Steven Soderbergh, I definitely don’t think of the terms “out-of-touch” or “has-been”. He’s a cinematic chameleon who is able to stay relevant while still sticking to his guns. His Ocean’s trilogy are among some of the best heist movies in recent years. Traffic is one of the best films you’ll see on the drug trade. Last year’s Contagion is a disturbing and stylish take on disease and a rather accurate take on what would probably happen.
Soderbergh kicks off 2012 with a new film called Haywire. Starring retired MMA fighter Gina Carano, Haywire is deliciously old-school, and will bring many people back to the days of the stylish 1960s spy thrillers that we’ve all come to know and love, but it adds in a taste of more recent films like Drive and Kill Bill. The story of how Soderbergh found Carano is rather odd, but interesting nonetheless. One day while watching TV, Soderbergh saw one of Carano’s fights on TV and knew instantly that that’s who he wanted to lead his next film. He casted her and then spent time with her creating a film based around all of the cool looking and ass kicking moves that she was capable of.
Of course, there’s a plot that I have to run through, but it’s really not as important as you might think. Basically, this special agent named Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) gets set up during a mission to Barcelona to save a Chinese journalist, Jiang (Anthony Brandon Wong), but she’s set up by a number of people including an ex-lover, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), her partner for the mission, Aaron (Channing Tatum), and the mastermind behind the whole deceit, Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas).
Michael Fassbender also has an extended cameo, and, in my opinion, the best role of the entire film. But honestly, if I spent time explaining how everything in Haywire works, that takes away from the fun. I will say this, though, Michael Angarano plays a teenager named Scott, who has to hear Mallory tell her story during a rather heated car ride through upstate New York. To be perfectly frank though, none of what I say is going to make sense unless you either a. go see the movie, or b. have me explain everything that happens, which I’m not going to do.
The thing about Haywire though, is that the plot really doesn’t matter that much when looked at as a movie. In fact, the reason that this piece of cinema exists is to watch Gina Carano kick the ass of multiple men, and by multiple I mean, a lot. Soderbergh directs Carano with an expert’s eye, crafting the entire film and its visuals around her and not the other way around. The film’s stylish score invades almost every second of the film’s running time except when Ms. Carano is doing the honors of beating a trained super spy, or some similar authority figure, to death.
As great as the action is, the fact that the film revolves around Carano is both a blessing and a curse. The film’s first scene involves Channing Tatum and Carano talking in a diner, their combined acting skills amounting to that of something similar to the first scene in a porno. As much as we’d like to believe, Carano isn’t really that great of an actress, but it isn’t her fault. She’s surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world, and in that respect she does a commendable job, but her flat line readings and general discomfort of having to keep up with actors like Michael Fassbender just made me wish that they’d get back to the action and stop dicking around.
The screenplay, written by Lom Dobbs, feels rushed and seems to revolve solely around hand-to-hand combat, and not telling a unique story. Still, its subpar plotting is made up for with its nail-biting action sequences and stylish directing by Soderbergh. Haywire isn’t the action film we hoped it would be, but it’s still an inspired effort by all involved, and definitely worth a watch for MMA enthusiasts, and all fans of 60s spy thrillers. I just wish it could have appealed to, well, everyone.
Images: Relativity Media