Directed by Stephen Soderbergh, Haywire is the story of a freelance Covert Operative named Mallory Kane (played by Gina Carano in her first outing as a lead actress) who, after successfully completing a mission in Barcelona, is almost instantly whisked away to Ireland on another assignment to be the eye candy for Paul (Michael Fassbender). Whilst in Dublin, she finds out that she’s been double crossed by her employer and is considered a fugitive. Mallory must use all her skills and abilities to make it back to the US alive, and exact revenge on those who betrayed her.
As I said before, this is Carano’s first acting job; she is actually a professional MMA fighter and is so far undefeated. Her line delivery is, at best, average, and the opening scene is just plain awkward; the whole thing feels like a bad improv between her and Channing Tatum. Having said that, she’s actually quite watchable, and the more you see of her the more she becomes believable. But she wasn’t chosen for her acting abilities, and she doesn’t disappoint with her fists, laying waste to everyone who gets in her way. The rest of the cast are surprisingly high profile: Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum. After twenty minutes, it’s clear that Haywire falls into the same trap as New Years Eve and (Soderbergh’s release prior to this) Contagion do; they simply do not spend enough time on the screen to make that much of an impression. Fassbender comes closest, and plays a high class Londoner to a tee, but if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the only scenes worth watching with him in. Tatum’s character is by far the one with the most potential that is wasted, and this is most likely due to the point made previously of him not being utilized effectively.
Plot wise, you should expect to be left in the dark for the first 20 minutes. Fortunately, namely after the Barcelona scenes, things become a little clearer and you can actually begin to enjoy the movie instead of try and figure out what’s going on. I actually don’t see this as a negative, and it was refreshing to see an action movie take a non-linear approach to telling the story.
Make no mistake: Haywire has some of the most brutal fight scenes you’ll probably see all year, which are elevated by their lack of musical score. You’ll only hear the sounds of punches and kicks connecting, or the occasional table breaking. It’s a method that hasn’t really been employed very much, but makes the scenes work so much better; it’s like the audience is there in the room with the combatants, and is, to put it simply, voyeuristic. However, and arguably disappointingly to a lot of potential viewers, these fight sequences are sparse. This isn’t the kick ass fight fest that the trailer promised, just like Contagion wasn’t the “quick spreading virus” that its trailer teased at either. Instead, there’s a lot of chasing, and running, and a highly impressive tracking shot of Mallory as she leaves the hotel.
What is possibly the most standout aspect of Haywire though is its score. From the outset, the musical score almost dictates the actors movements. It’s not your typical fist pumping generic metal stuff either: this is a hip, jazzy score that isn’t too dissimilar to that heard in Soderbergh’s earlier Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen films due to the same composer being used.
Overall, Haywire is a welcome change from your typical action movie; it’s smart, female driven and in places beautifully shot. The acting is nothing special, but it was never meant to be: this was all about taking a well known story (agent gets double crossed, stops at nothing to get revenge) and turning it on its head. It does this instantly by just having a woman in the lead role, but it is also achieved by its methods of telling the story: you really do have to concentrate to know what’s going on. Accompanied by a score that oozes coolness, there’s just no way Haywire can be disliked.