Haywire (2011, Steven Soderbergh)
It seems as though every new Soderbergh film is an event, albeit not one that necessarily brings movie goers to the multiplex in droves. Rather, the 'event' status the director's films benefit from concern chiefly the many cinema buffs who eagerly await what box of surprises they will be get next for no one every knows what to expect from one film to another. If there is something Soderbergh long ago, it is his skillful capacity to adapt and meld his talents for the purpose of virtually any genre. In the case of Haywire, the principle benefactor from the director's influence is newcomer Gina Carano, whose talents up until now were demonstrated on the mats of MMA fights.
Mallary Kane (Gina Carano) is a stunningly effective gun for hire. Her career as a covert operator in the private sector takes her from country to country in a variety of life threatening missions. Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) is the man who sets up the contracts for his highly skilled team, which also includes Aaron (Chaning Tatum), young brash, and definitely has the hots for Mallary. The viewer is launched straight into the thick of Mallary's current predicament from the very first scene, in which she is savagely attacked by Aaron at a diner in upstate New York. She escapes with th help of a local (Michael Angarano) with whom she drives off and shares her tale of betrayal and revenge. Things went 'haywire' 10 days ago in Barcelona during what seemed at the time to be an extract mission for one Chinese journalist, which, it turns out, was but the tip of the iceberg in a plot for one evil person, Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas) help another, Studder (Mathieu Kassovitz), with the help of Kenneth and one British (Michael Fassbender) called into to finish her off. Now, only her father (Bill Paxton) and a U.S. Government official (Michael Douglas) can help her.
The more one thinks about it, the more it seems silly to write down how Haywire is 'surprisingly' good. Has this director ever made a full-on action adventure piece before? No, not unless people are generous enough to categorize films such as the Ocean trilogy under that moniker. Despite this, his continuing ability to prove himself capable of making good pieces of cinema despite whatever genre restrictions might stifle his creativity has been demonstrated time and time again. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that Haywire is not only a fine action movie, but a fine movie, period. In fact, even though January releases are so often long lost in the memories of movie fans when the time arrives to construct end of the year lists, it may be rightful to suspect that those with inclinations toward the action genre will immediately call back to this film and rightfully reserve it a cozy spot. 11 months to go for that statement to be proven correct or false.
So where do the picture's many envious qualities lie? Lest she be overlooked in the immense list of Hollywood stars that shine on screen, the discussion should commence with Gina Carano herself, and not merely for her impressive physical presence, which is abundantly clear anyhow at numourous moments. Her acting was, argubably, the great unknown heading into this film, It is one thing to rest hope in the hands of a fully capable director, it is another to rest iit n the hands of someone who has never acted and gets the role of the central figure. Any doubters are proven wrong very quickly. Carano brings to the role of Mallary a special kind of focus and nuance, the sort which helps flesh out her character, emotionally at the very least if not plot-wise, and makes her memorable and worthy of the audience's empathy. She is cool and aloof when need be, deadly intense when in the line of duty, and also demonstrate a subtly softer side in the few, make that very few occasions when she is afforded the briefest moments to relax her muscles and instincts. It is not only a testament to the direction but equally to the charm and plausible acting chops exercised by Carano, making seem quite remarkable that Haywire is her first major role. If the future holds more fantastic films and roles for her, she may very well be a force to be reckoned with alongside male stars such as Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Daniel Craig.
There is no need to beat around the proverbial bush any longer than has already been:Haywire is filled to the brim with adrenaline pumping, bone crunching, realistically painful chases and fight scenes. Both should be understood as distinct, especially in the context of this film. Yes, both do, in fact, represent different sorts of action, but the differences are not limited to the nature of the sequences, but also their presentation in Haywire. When a chase occurs, Soderbergh and his team develop an incredibly dynamic array of edits, camera angles and, in one case, even colour schemes. There is a sense of vitality to the pursuits which is all too often lacking in films of this kind. Experimentation was on the mind of the filmmakers, unsurprising when considering the talent involved, and whether or not it is experimentation for experimentation's sake, it nevertheless works with stunning smoothness. Scenes involving brawls are no less impressive, albeit for entirely different reasons. In such instances, flash takes a backseat for a more grounded style of filmmaking, with the cuts chosen very judiciously so as to reveal just how intricately demanding the fights are. Here is a advice many directors fail to heed: show the audience how awesome the fights are, do not cut so quickly to make the audience think the fights are awesome. Just let them happen...and let the good, if painful, times roll. Sound design when fists and legs crash into faces and chests excels at grounding the movie into a degree of reality. Powerful thuds express contact, not cartoonish 'pows!'
Not content with merely delivering a thrilling spy and action picture, Haywire offers up some cleverly inserted character and story-based elements, all of which makes the experience that much more complete. The actual bare bones plot of the film is not the most engaging (it is actually a bit mundane in certain respects), but the depiction of Mallary is, insofar as everybody else's opinion of her differs. There is some brief commentary about her being such a talented female operative that hits the right notes, as well as her relationship with her father, expertly played by Paxton, whose character is himself an ex-soldier, making the dynamic between the two that much more interesting and easy to accept.
Simple story to follow, an endlessly fabulous cast, a surprisingly effective performance from Carano, sumptuous action choreography and cinematography, and a catchy score from David Homes make for great entertainment. Given how dry the Hollywood landscape traditionally is in the first month of the year, people should do themselves a favour and at least check out Soderbergh's latest.