Andy Boxall takes a look at Steven Soderbergh’s experimental action flick Haywire starring mixed martial arts professional Gina Carano.
When Steven Soderbergh made The Girlfriend Experience, he gave adult film star Sasha Grey the starring role as a high-class call girl, one which she could bring a certain degree of realism too, as well as giving Soderbergh the chance to easily mould her into the character he envisioned.
Haywire, despite occupying a different genre, is similar to The Girlfriend Experience, as Soderbergh has taken real-life female cage fighter Gina Carano and given her the role of a no-nonsense, arse-kicking spy. It has a similarly brief runtime, coming in at under 90 minutes, and the plot is equally sparse too. It’s a decision that also recalls Tarantino’s casting of Zoe Bell in Death Proof, where the goal was filming the best, no-compromise stunt shots possible.
In Haywire, Carano plays Mallory Kane, a black ops assassin who discovers a mission in Barcelona wasn’t all that it appeared to be, and that she has now become a target. She must use all her guile and abilities to find out why.
Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas are the big name stars who all hold pieces of the puzzle, and each actor gives a low-key, subtle performance; while Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender are both on hand to provide the charm and act as potential targets for Carano’s whirlwind fists.
Anyone who has seen the trailer for Haywire could be expecting an action-packed, b-movie thrill ride, but Haywire is more spy thriller with an action twist than vice versa. Carano though, has great screen presence, and is convincing as a “lethal weapon.”
Haywire plays as if Soderbergh wanted to make a modern version of Tinker, Tailer, Soldier Spy, but felt the need to put in some action scenes for the Bourne crowd. It’s not a bad thing, but there is a lot more mumbled, intrigue-filled conversation than there is crunching of bones.
When the acton and fight sequences do arrive though, they’re superb, and a world away from those filmed with a shaky camera with which we have become so familiar. Carano’s incredible fighting prowess and obvious athleticism reminded me of why Bruce Lee’s fight scenes were so fantastic to watch.
Like Lee, Carano is a martial artist, and her skill means we see proper, realistic fights. Filmed in long shot and carefully edited, every connecting blow has weight behind it, and each one looks like it genuinely hurt. All are intricately choreographed and Carano’s fluid, dynamic movements add to the realism. While they don’t hold the same kinetic excitement of Casino Royale or the Bourne trilogy, they do make Haywire’s fights seem more grounded, almost clinical in their execution.
This continues in the barebones plot and the often less than emotional characters, and it’s really only McGregor who gets close to acting like a human being. As with other Soderbergh movies, it’s stylishly filmed, with some standout tracking shots used in the Dublin city chase.
Haywire is almost a repeat of The Girlfriend Experience, a stylish indie movie filled with subtle performances and an almost inconsequential plot, that’s made more for Soderbergh than it is for the audience. It’s ultimately a bit soulless, and only Gina Carana’s brilliant skull-cracking fight sequences elevate it above being an average spy movie lacking in plot and thrills.
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Fergal O’Halloran
Released: 2011 / Genre: Action / Country: USA / IMDB
Buy on DVD:
Amazon.co.uk: DVD + Blu-ray Double Play