Author: Robert Reineke
January 19, 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

HAYWIRE is Steven Soderbergh's newest cinematic experiment. Soderbergh takes essentially a non-actor, Gina Carano, selected for her looks and MMA fighting ability, surrounds her with a top notch cast, and then lets her loose beating up most of the cast with all the directorial flourishes Soderbergh can reasonably fit in. The result is essentially an arty exploitation film; an oxymoron that still somehow makes sense.

Like an exploitation movie, the plot is essentially meaningless as anything other than a linkage between setpieces. Carano's character doesn't have an arc. There are no deeper themes in the text. Carano plays Mallory, a black ops contractor that's betrayed and set up to take the fall for a crime she didn't commit. First order of business is getting out of the trap. Second order of business is payback.

And that's essentially the film. Sure there are some twists and turns, but there are no deeper themes in the script. It's simply an excuse for Carano to kick ass. And kick ass she does. Basically imagine the Bourne movies without shaky cam and you have a pretty good idea of the action. And, without the shaky cam, the action scenes are truly impressive. Carano's not much of an actor, but she's an impressive physical presence and looks great in a fight. The fights, btw, have a lot of impact. I'd swear that the punch's connecting sound louder than the gunshots in the audio mix and every hit is visceral. The result is a series of some of the best fight and chase scenes Hollywood has produced in years.

While the script may not have anything to really say, Soderbergh is obviously commenting on the genre he's riffing on. Soderbergh essentially "actor proofs" the movie by giving Carano very little dialogue and nothing overly emotional. He asks her to look surprised, to look concerned, and to kick ass basically. Soderbergh then surrounds her with some of the more famous pretty boy actors on the planet in Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender and lets Carano kick their asses. I don't think it's reading too much to say that Soderbergh is celebrating the "action movie star" and "action director" over the "sensitive actor" in HAYWIRE. The "bad guys" number among them another famous pretty boy in Antonio Banderas and the "good guys" have among the action movie stalwart, but hardly an acclaimed actor, Bill Paxton. Soderbergh perhaps cheats that simple arrangement by having Michael Douglas somewhere in the middle. It's Douglas that gets to deliver the big speeches though, which certainly helps because Douglas is great at it.

However, I certainly can see this film not being for everyone. Carano is no better than adequate in even her best scenes when she's not in action mode which certainly is limiting. Channing Tatum isn't any better. Soderbergh is also too emotionally cool to really get the blood pumping much and the film certainly doesn't build to a cathartic climax. Also, for a short film that has lots of action, the pace lags a bit in the second half, probably because we really don't care about Carano beyond her immediate goals. The film isn't completely satisfying as an art film and isn't completely satisfying as an exploitation film as it doesn't commit fully in either direction.

That said, the positives easily outweigh the negatives as far as I'm concerned. It delivers the thrills of an exploitation movie in a stylish manner while commenting on the genre through the filmmaking. I think this is more than a fun minor riff than a major artistic achievement, but I was certainly entertained throughout.


Robert Reineke is a Civil and Environmental Engineer residing in Wisconsin.
Hes earned a BS and MS degrees from the University of Wisconsin and has been reading Batman comics since the 1970s.
Hes of the firm belief that there are plenty of Batman comics written before Frank Miller that are worthy of discussion.

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