Film Review: Haywire

By Daniel Savage

Directed by: Steven Soderburgh

Written by: Lem Dobbs

Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas

After being betrayed by her employers, a mercenary looks for both answers and revenge.

You’ve seen Haywire. You might not have paid to view it, but you’ve seen it.

Clearly inspired by the Bourne films – hefty doses of brutal, realistic action, a complex, globe-trotting web of deceit and betrayal, and a relatively more realistic look at the spy business than the James Bond series.

It winds up a pale shadow of its illustrious predecessor (will it be better than the upcoming sequel/reboot, replacing Matt Damon with Jeremy Renner? Only time will tell, although I suspect not).

There are some noble ambitions behind the scenes. Producer, Steven Soderburgh, set out to replicate his experiment of The Girlfriend Experience, a film where he cast porn star Sasha Grey as an escort girl.

Whilst perhaps not a huge stretch of whatever acting ability she might have had, you can see the reasoning. For Haywire, he casts Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, mercenary for hire.

Carano is, away from films, a professional MMA fighter, which does mean that she is rather more convincing as a woman who can thoroughly ruin your day in a whole host of painful ways than your average Hollywood starlet.

She brings little else to the role though. In truth, she barely changes pitch or tone when speaking, whether she is engaging in mildly flirtatious banter, having an emotional moment with her father, or swearing revenge against those who have betrayed her.

Is it fair to criticise her? As far as I am aware, she has expressed no intention in an acting career beyond Haywire, and so I would put her no more at fault than Rosie Huntington-Whitely, of the most recent Transformers travesty.

Whitely was objectified for her looks, Michael Bay showing more interest in her rear than her expression, and while Soderburgh does give Carano chances, it is quite literally stunt casting.

To be fair, not many of the cast come away with much in the way of credit. Antonio Banderas is suffering the effects of being mostly familiar these days for playing a feline parody of his most famous roles, although he is still the most entertaining presence on screen, while Michael Douglas doesn’t do much with the scraps he is given.

Ewan McGregor tries, but he doesn’t have a terribly interesting role. Michael Fassbender perhaps does best, playing a suave Bond type who isn’t quite what he seems. The section of the film that plays him opposite Carano is without question, its best (although equally, you’ll have seen a lot of its best section in the trailer).

The script is fairly uninspired, although the plot does manage to have a more believable explanation than any spy film I’ve seen in recent years, which is a mixed blessing.

It’s more unexpected than the usual tide of conspiracy theories and secret organisations, but at the same time inspires a shrug and a ‘is that it?’ response.

This is heightened by the fact that ninety percent of the film passes without any explanation whatsoever, leaving everything to be revealed in the last ten minutes. When it comes, it is not so much complex as ignored.

On the upside, the action scenes are usually pretty good, making fine use of Carano’s skills, although somebody clearly couldn’t resist the opportunity of throwing in needlessly extravagant moves to spice things up.

The climax is hopeless though, kicking off in the most ridiculous way possible and degenerating into a badly cut schoolyard brawl. The sound editing is nice though.

Elsewhere, there is plenty of humour, albeit unintentional for the most part. There’s at least one moment involving a deer that might have been designed as a sudden shock, but actually provoked gales of laughter.

In addition, an extended chase scene is shot in such a way that it occasionally comes across as an homage to those old Pink Panther cartoons with the inspector tracking the Panther in the least subtle way possible.

I suspect Haywire does have a market, when released on DVD and then further down into the bargain bins; destined for late night student viewing with drinking games, but I would strongly advise against paying for the cinema ticket.

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