Author: JoAnne Hyde
January 20, 2012
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SYNOPSIS: Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive

At the end of Haywire, the film reviewer sitting next to me said, “Are you awake?” My reply: “Barely.” Director Steven Soderbergh has really stubbed his toe on this one, a surprising situation for the director of such successes as Oceans Eleven and Traffic. This film lacks a cohesive story line and fails to engage the audience – hence the “awake” comment. Even though the protagonist is portrayed by a non-actor, Gina Carano from the world of mixed martial arts, the rest of the cast looked promising: Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender. These usually reliable actors come off like an Acting 101 class making its first film. Douglas channels his character from The American President, McGregor and Fassbender give shallow and flat portrayals at best, and Banderas has so little screen time that it’s almost a cameo -- and not a good one at that. He does a lot of beard tugging. Channing Tatum seems to be included mainly as eye candy, and Bill Paxton does his best impression of a cardboard cut-out. And Gina? Well, she’s not an actor -- she’s a fighter. The only actor who redeems himself is Michael Angarano who plays Scott, a hapless kid sucked into a truckload of problems when he runs into Mallory in a diner and watches her kick some major a**. She sort of abducts him because she needs his car and his help in tending her wounds. Angarano does scared and confused very well.

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), ex-Marine “devil dog”, is a special ops agent working for a private contractor, and she’s unknowingly being set up to take the fall for the incomprehensible plot set in motion by Coblenz (Michael Douglas) – or maybe it was Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), or perhaps Studer (Mathieu Kassovitz). It’s never really clear what the plot was or who was responsible for it. Ewan McGregor and Channing Tatum play Mallory’s former colleagues and lovers, Kenneth and Aaron, respectively. No character is really fleshed out, so their connections to one another don’t seem real. The “outsider-scapegoat” character acting on his/her own code of honor requires an actor with some depth, or the audience can’t identify with him/her. Carano doesn’t have the acting chops to pull that off, so Mallory doesn’t come off as a sympathetic character.

Soderbergh doesn’t seem to know which cinematic style he wanted to use, so he just throws in a hodge-podge of them. We go from color – sometimes in the present, sometimes not -- to black and white flashbacks with muffled sound, and then to very long chase scenes with shaky, hand-held camera work set to the kind of kitschy background music of 1970’s foreign films. Of course, we know that fight scenes in films are choreographed, but we trust the director to make us forget that. In Haywire, the fights are so obviously choreographed that you can almost imagine the director’s blocking: “Okay, now grab her arm. Trip him with your free leg. Smash her face into the fake mirror.” And so on. By the way, if you’re going to be smashing faces into glass surfaces, one small bleeding cut isn’t going to cut it in the credibility department.

In the end, it seems as if Soderbergh said, “Let’s use a female capable of doing all her own stunts -- she doesn’t have to be an actress -- put her in a bunch of fight scenes, edit them all together, and call it a movie!”

Save your money AND your time. It’ll probably be in Red Box in a couple of weeks. - JoAnne Hyde


JoAnne Hyde reviews films for BOF.

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