Review: Haywire (2011)

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Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan Mc Gregor, Michael Fassbender

With the twilight of his career looming precariously on the horizon, Steven Soderbergh seems to be amping up his game substantially to further strengthen his already prolific and well-above average standing within the realm of contemporary cinema. While last year’s Contagion was, for all intents and purposes, an able-bodied examination of a world thrown into chaos following a disease outbreak, it failed to leave a lasting impression despite positive critical reception and Soderbergh’s technical expertise. The auteur’s second effort from yesteryear, Haywire, of which was questionably postponed until this first month of 2012, is essentially a streamlined action-thriller that marks a vast deparature from Soderbergh’s previous offering and remains more engaging in light of its tendency to alienate viewers who aren’t fully invested in its lead character and often complex narrative.

As an action-infused romp in the vein of what we’re used to, i.e. James Bond and the like, Haywire aptly fits the bill in both being more of the same and yet a whole lot more. The film’s screenplay, penned by Soderbergh’s previous collaborator Lem Dobbs, prides itself on keeping us in the dark pertaining to just how and why femme fatale-for-hire Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) was sold down the river by the organization she’d worked for all the years prior to said incident. We’re fed a scrap or two of pertinent information here and there, but for the most part, the characters Mallory interacts with are mostly superfluous up until the truth behind their involvement’s revealed during its latter moments. An appealing gimmick, indeed, but in the grand scheme of things, and forgive me for beating a dead horse, the approach is sure to lose those not immediately taken by the proceedings, and intermittent flashes of the shady dealings leading up to the present aren’t particularly helpful right from the get-go.

Inherent (and appealing) complexity aside, it’s fairly easy to piece everything together as things move briskly along, the film amply utilizing its purposefully bombastic score and fantastic visual aesthetic to add considerably to its overall appeal. Haywire‘s expertly choreographed fight scenes are easily the film’s most compelling sequences, with Carano’s Kane physically dominating each and every bout with enough vigor to impress even the most battle-hardened of viewers. Her imposing premise and the character’s unending drive to clear her name are two of Haywire‘s more compelling and subsequently definining attributes, and the previously unchronicled sect of super-soldiers she works with remains captivating by way of how little we’ve seen this approach to your typical espionage-infused actioner.

The cast, notoriety aside, doesn’t really bring anything substantial to the table outside of Carano herself, proving to just about everyone that she’s a more than capable leading lady, if only within this particular niche of filmmaking. Given the obviousness of the initial trailers, the efforts of Fassbender are rendered negligible even though his character plays a vital role in the events surrounding Ms. Kane’s setup. The same goes for Carano’s unwilling accomplice, portrayed by Michael Angarano, her former collaborator/brief love interest (Channing Tatum), her boss (Ewan McGregor) and those he recently embarked on a shady backalley transaction with for his own personal gain (Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas). Despite the majority of this ensemble cast failing to live up to Carano’s surprising conviction as the female lead, the characters themselves serve to aptly keep the ball rolling as Mallory’s quest for vengeance chugs along unhindered to the film’s gratifying climax.

In light of Haywire‘s blatant tendency to confuse those not willing to pay attention to the subtle intricacies of Dobbs’ screenplay, the film in question bears Soderbergh’s trademark flair while unabashedly flaunting star Gina Carano’s physical prowess as a mercenary-for-hire that simply won’t rest until her once flawless reputation has been restored. Both appealingly complex and littered with some rather stellar action sequences, Soderbergh’s latest effort is an artfully constructed genre film that transcends convention despite its more obvious shortcomings. It isn’t a masterpiece, but as an engaging, visually stimulating and flat-out original approach to a formula we’ve seen tackled now and again, Haywire stands tall at the front of the pack.

Rating: 7/10

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One comment on “Review: Haywire (2011)

  1. […] full review 4. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-wai, 1995) full review 3. Haywire (Steven Soderbergh, 2011) full review 2. The Grey (Joe Carnahan, 2012) full […]

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