14 Feb

Title: Haywire
Year: 2012
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
MPAA Rating: R, some violence
Runtime: 93 min
IMDb Rating: 6.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Metacritic: 67


Upon watching Haywire I had the exact same feeling I had when I saw Contagion in early October; I will seriously miss Steven Soderbergh if he does indeed retire from filmmaking. If his plans stand, this is his fourth-to-last film ever; the remaining ones being the stripper film Magic Mike which is to be released this June, the psychological thriller The Side Effects which will star Rooney Mara and that’s set for the first half of next year, and Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace film starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon being made by HBO. I will really miss having new films by Mr. Soderbergh, the guy is an incredibly versatile director, able to tackle really big casts and budgets as well as smaller more experimental films, and always doing so with a great level of consistency (the guy releases a film per year like clockwork, if not more) and never once compromising.

After delivering the amazing Contagion last year (which I gave an A- to and ranked as my 46th favorite of the year), which saw him juggling intersecting storylines and a hugely talented ensemble to create a film that left you anxious about germs and viruses, here he is again with a rather big cast full of really talented people. The one difference being that the lead in this film is Gina Carano, the mixed martial arts fighter in her film debut as Mallory Kane, the kick-ass operative that works for a government security contractor. Acting-wise Ms. Carano isn’t all that great, how she delivers her lines is many times just way off, but you can’t deny that she has a seriously great screen presence, commanding your attention, and Mr. Soderbergh knows really well how to hide her weaknesses, and it helps that it’s genuinely her kicking ass in her action scenes in which she actually did her own stunts.

Not to mention that even if Ms. Carano isn’t that great an actress, the supporting cast more than makes up for it; you have Michael Fassbender (one of the five best actors working today), Ewan McGregor (who really impressed me here), Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum (who will collaborate with Mr. Soderbergh again in both Magic Mike and The Side Effects), Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, all truly tremendous actors. The result is a film that moves really fast, achieving a really great pacing and full of action set pieces that are truly nifty to watch, and though not as good as Contagion, this one is kind of up there as far as the level of greatness it achieves, and proves the streak Mr. Soderbergh is on after announcing his retirement is just awesome.

Steven Soderbergh is truly sensational filmmaker, and you just know the guy is so in control of his craft, not only directing this one, but also shooting it (under the alias Peter Andrews) and editing it (under the alias Mary Ann Bernard). And considering this man is so well-versed in what makes a really great movie, we get an action-thriller film that doesn’t have all those incoherent action sequences that seem to plague it’s Hollywood contemporaries, nor are we drowned in silly special effects; this is the real deal, a super slick production with a girl who can honestly kick the asses of the many men she beats up in this movie.

After Mallory succeeds in freeing a Chinese journalist being held hostage she gets double-crossed by someone from her own side, which sparks up the whole movie, as she now has to find the truth as many skilled operatives are now targeting her. And, like I said, Ms. Carano has a long way to go as an actress, but considering that the stuff this film asks of her the most is just to kick some ass she really was the perfect woman for the job. And kudos have to be given for Mr. Soderbergh for actually going with a real woman that’s athletic and looks like she could do this stuff instead of a skinny Hollywood bimbo that you wouldn’t believe for a second in the role of Mallory. As silly as it may sound it’s not often that we get to see the actual bodies doing the actual stunts, here we see them move, and aren’t flooded with quick-cuts in order to create an illusion like we would be in many of these films.

What I thought was kind of neat, was that while a lot of this film takes its cues from the 80’s films in which action stars just carried the whole story, you also get the sense of more esoteric kind of influences from the 60’s in which you had spy thrillers with twists and that were much more meditative. I mean, we all know that it’s about Ms. Carano showing off her chops in really rad situations, but by introducing characters played by Mr. McGregor, Mr. Douglas and Mr. Banderas, Mr. Soderbergh gives us a lot of spy jargon that makes it all seem super complicated but that in reality doesn’t mean all that much and is just a way to make the revenge story at the center of it feel that much cooler.

This was just an awesome film to me, a really needed jolt of adrenaline that hadn’t been provided by new movies in quite some time for me. The fact that it was made by Steven Soderbergh means that it will also be one that comes with a level of sophistication, it means that it will be seriously well-made, and you have to appreciate that a whole lot. A really neat thing I thought he did was dropping the music (which was scored by David Holmes, who worked with him on the Ocean’s films) in the action scenes, just relying the sound of fists and kicks, knowing that he wouldn’t need music to tell audiences what to feel because he had Gina Carano doing the ass-whipping and that would be all that he needed. Ms. Carano does the ass-kicking and the great actors surrounding her help her by carrying the dramatic load; a winning formula that makes Haywire a truly terrific film. We now have only three more Soderbergh films to look forward to, and as much as I don’t want to have none left, I really want to see them right about now.

Grade: A-


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