Haywire Directed by: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Michael Anagarano, Antonio Banderas Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins Rating: R Release Date: January 20, 2012
PLOT: A private-company assassin (Carano) hunts down those who sold her out after a failed mission in Barcelona.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Those who are looking to see the first great film of 2012, and/or miss the type of "real human being, real hero" excitement that made last fall's Drive so special. Don't miss Haywire if you miss bad-ass cinema.
EXPECTATIONS: This was the first movie for screenwriter Dobbs and director Soderbergh since The Limey, right? Would it be too early for one of the best films of 2012?
Gina Carano as Mallory Kane: Just as porn star Sasha Grey displays a naturalness to Soderbergh's escort story The Girlfriend Experience, ass-kicking is instinctive for MMA fighter Carano. We especially get this sense with her notably imperfect on-screen performance, which has her saying only a couple of lines at one time, and with a slightly robotic concentration. She looks and sounds more like an actual mercenary than a movie star simply dressed as one. These attributes remind us we are looking at the real deal. And in this boy's town of marquee stars, she's never materialized. She's just doing what she does best. Score: 7
Ewan McGregor as Kenneth: Donned with a mistake of a haircut, Kenneth is a tool, through and through (just try shaking off that name. Kenneth.) McGregor plays this dorky instrument to Haywire's story with his own unassuming intelligence. Score: 6
Channing Tatum as Aaron: His muscles do not precede him, as Tatum is made to be more sensitive and innocent than we might imagine the chiseled Step Up star to be. Instead of looking like a jock, he's more in the line of Matt Damon's "kid" character Linus in the Ocean's Eleven movies. Yet with all of this, he can still throw a good punch, as he does in the film's walloping opening sequence. Score: 6
Michael Douglas as Coblenz: Douglas is a desk man here, who uses his calm voice in a couple of pivotal exchanges in the film. He hardly even moves in the movie, but is nonetheless an important and compelling aspect to the scheme within Haywire. Score: 6
Rest of Cast: You will not find any deep performances in this actioner, but you will find plenty of supporting appearances that play with the face-value star power of lead actors like Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, and even the rising Michael Angarano. Fassbender and Banderas are important to the story, but are only individual chapters (nonetheless, ones with more unfortunate moments of hair and facial hair). Angarano is used as a narrative tool for Mallory to give us a flashback, as opposed to something like sitting quietly and thinking about what has been done. His anxieties and moments of relief become our own as we adopt him our to the unpredictable Haywire experience. Score: 6
TALKING: Dialogue is where Haywire's self-amusement becomes the most prominent, as it toys with lines that are either silly or actually cliche. Carano mutters overdone lines like "You better run," or "I don't like loose ends." At the same time, Haywire giggles to itself when it has Michael Douglas mutter, "We got ourselves a real twizzler here." Even for a movie that spaces out its action sequences, conversations are fairly brief and concise. There are no long talks between characters - every bit of dialogue seems to serve a purpose of helping this swift story maintain its speed. Score: 7
SIGHTS: Haywire follows the rule that every movie with hand-to-hand combat should. There's no handheld cameras during fights, the shots aren't too zoomed in to defeat a clear shot, the takes are as long as possible, and it looks like stunt performers are hardly used. With their fluidity, these explosive fight scenes maintain their thrill until their sudden conclusions. With just one film, Soderbergh has embarrassed the dizzying action of an entire Bourne trilogy. Score: 9
SOUNDS: David Holmes' lively jazz score (think electric Miles Davis with more pep) adds the same smoothness that his similar sounding work did to the previous Ocean's Eleven soundtracks. The trumpets are muted, the bongos are toe-tapping, and the basslines are consistently gooey. In a story featuring assassins and chase-scenes, it's vintage chic to the image. However, Haywire doesn't fully rely on the score, as it lets realistic sound design conquer its raw fight moments. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: Although it may not be the best fight scene, nothing feels more jaw-dropping than the introduction, which throws coffee in your face and wows you with its refreshing realism.
QUESTIONS: How much different is Soderbergh's final cut to Lem Dobbs' script?
REWATCHABILITY: Haywire rocks just as much the second time. I look forward to round three.
With Soderbergh having already won the Oscar for "Best Director" (in a year in which he was twice nominated) and fully exercised both mainstream and arthouse bones, Haywire is not concerned with being perfect in the spectrum of either cinematic classes, though it reaches out equally to both. The story of Haywire, however intricate its backstabbing scheme may be, doesn't have much subtext to recognize the film as arthouse, despite the presence of dynamic color tints and montages. Yet on the other side of the bridge, the invigorating fight sequences do not steer the course of Haywire, something that will surely surprise multiplex visitors with pure expectations of a female Jason Statham flick.
What makes Haywire so bad-ass is its attitude. It fulfills everyone's desire for new action, while having its own fun. How else to explain McGregor's haircut, or Banderas' last line of the film? With its intelligence always one step ahead, Haywire revels in punching movie stars in the face, and then surprising audience members with an imperfect hero who never has assumed immortality. Haywire gets plenty of its own kicks jolting audience members with reality.
As revealed in a recent interview with IndieWire, Soderbergh seems to be bothered (by unwarranted humility) that he still isn't doing anything new. Isolated in his own cinematic fruitful territory, he seems to have forgotten something. As represented in his many knockout fight scenes in the victorious Haywire, it's not a matter of who hits first - it's who kicks the most ass.
FINAL SCORE: 8/10