Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender
Gina Carano (An MMA fighter) makes her movie debut, playing Mallory Kane. Following two jobs in Barcelona and Dublin, Mallory is now on the run, keen to stay alive whilst also uncover the conspiracy behind her employer’s attempts to dispose of her. A set-up that is on the surface, depressingly familiar and invites the female Bourne tag. However what makes Haywire unfamiliar is its presentation. Like last year’s Hanna, Soderbergh takes an arthouse/independent approach and in doing so produces the film that Angelina Jolie’s Salt, should have been.
The USP of Haywire is the execution of its fight sequences. When two characters get into a fistfight, the only sounds we hear, are the sounds of them hitting each other. No music accompanies these scenes and with this stripped down perspective, Soderbergh has delivered some of the most affecting, Hollywood, action scenes of recent memory. It has been a long time sitting in the cinema, watching a Hollywood action movie, where I have heard people gasp at the action in front of them. Haywire makes you see, hear and feel the pain, in a way few action movies do.
The action sequences are also impeccably choreographed and shot, resulting in some of the most refreshing, affecting and exciting fight scenes in recent memory. This is not an action-packed movie and so when the hits come, they pack a punch. The film is perfectly paced from an editing standpoint and at ninety minutes, this film doesn’t outstay its welcome or lose your interest for a second. A lot should also be said for the editing of the fight sequences, while in many action films (Such as this year’s Safe House) it is hard to tell at times what is happening, in Haywire we are always aware of who is hitting who and where.
It is strange to be complimenting Haywire so greatly for elements that should be standard and expected, with the success of this style perhaps being more of a comment on the current expectation of the genre that surrounds it, rather than the achievements of the film itself. However I believe it is a mixture of both the former and the latter. In regards to the acting, it is always a gamble to make a sports star the lead of your film. However this role requires nothing more from Gina Carano than to play to her strengths. She commands the screen through her physicality and does not give a bad performance, partly down to the fact that she doesn’t really have to give one.
In typical Soderbergh fashion, we have a tremendous supporting cast in this film. Michael Fassbender has a brief, yet memorable role, while the likes of Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum and Ewan Mcgregor round out the expository, yet entertaining, smaller roles. While you are aware that each of these supporting players could be put to better use, Soderbergh casts his films in such a way (Contagion, the Ocean’s trilogy) that there is not a bad performance, or weak link in the cast.
The screenplay by Lem Dobbs is one that is incredibly simple and slight. Under the hands of many other directors this film could have easily resulted in a very stale, predictable film. It is the style of Soderbergh which heightens the substance of this film. Through tremendous cinematography and getting such a fine supporting cast to spout the dialogue, a film that could have gone so wrong, is so right.
It is not that the story is bad, however it is something that seems more reserved for an episode of Alias, than a feature length, big screen film. It is a tad more complex than one might expect however and does not rely on action sequences to bridge all its gaps and connect all its dots. The jazzy score is Ocean’s Eleven-esque and the presentation of the story is ultimately more memorable and original than the story itself.
What will stand out about this movie, for any student of film, is the cinematography. Soderbergh having directed, edited and shot this film, is undoubtedly the star of this movie. This is one of the most beautiful, inventively shot action films in recent years. While this approach could easily come off as pretentious experimenting, Soderbergh manages to keep the film visually fresh for its entire ninety minute run, never compromising its pace or enjoyment levels as a result.
I haven’t always been a fan of Soderbergh’s classy, yet slightly cold, stylish approach. However just how it perfectly fitted the heist movie in Ocean’s Eleven, it perfectly fits the action movie here. With his trademark use of title cards, Soderbergh’s style infuses the film with an energy and identity missing from most early year release, action films.
While it could have made better use of its supporting cast and done more with its story and characters, Haywire is once again Soderbergh proving that you can do mainstream style over substance and have it be a satisfying experience. The film kept me gripped, excited and interested for its entire running time and by the time the end credits begun, I had a smile on my face. Is this one of few, if any, films to have its first and last word spoken, be the same?
On the basis of a one sentence, summarization of its story, you would be right to be skeptical about Haywire. However Steven Soderbergh has made a film which will excite and delight those who like their action simple, yet stylish. An early contender, for best action film of the year. Unlike films such as John Carter, with its presentation and performance, Haywire makes you forget, albeit for a brief 90 minutes, that you have seen all this before.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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