**** (out of 5)
January 20, 2012
Gina Carano as MALLORY
Michael Angarano as SCOTT
Channing Tatum as AARON
Michael Douglas as COBLENZ
Antonio Banderas as RODRIGO
Ewan McGregor as KENNETH
Michael Fassbender as PAUL
Bill Paxton as MR. KANE
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
As a film critic, over the years, I have been conditioned to be leery of the films that are released in January, much like a stray dog is leery of anyone approaching him with food. There’s an offer of potential tastiness, but things can (and often do) get really ugly really fast.
The initial trailers of “Haywire” were intriguing. It looked like it had some great action in it, and it was directed by the often clever Steven Soderbergh. However, it also featured Channing Tatum and a yet-to-be-proved action star who, while fetching, is a professional fighter first, an American Gladiator second and a fitness model third.
So I was somewhat skeptical going into “Haywire.” After all, Soderbergh’s had his fair share of lame films (recent entries on this list include the overall misfire “The Informant!” and the colossal bore “Che”). But he’s also given us the entire “Oceans” series and the brilliant “Traffic,” among others.
The story in “Haywire” is pretty straightforward, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen already in about a dozen other films. Gina Carano plays Mallory, a former Marine and current agent for hire. Told in flashbacks, we see Mallory get double-crossed in the field, left on the run and bent on revenge. On the surface, it appears to be just another one of those rogue agent movies like “The Bourne Identity.”
However, Soderbergh does for this genre what he did with the heist movie in “Oceans Eleven” and its sequels. He doesn’t necessarily reinvent the genre, but rather approaches it from a different angle. All the trite elements are there – include rooftop chases, elaborate mission set-ups and impossible hand-to-hand combat that would literally break the spine of real people – but Soderbergh directs it completely outside of the box.
From his choice of music to his signature editing and pacing style, there’s a sense that the now-tired genre is intriguing again. It’s not just a hodge-podge of shakycam sequences but a smartly constructed, hip new version of the story.
Another choice that Soderbergh makes is to not put too much of the film on Carano’s shoulders. Sure, she’s a beautiful woman who can also kick ass all over the place, but she’s not an experienced actor. Contrast this film to the godawful “Abduction” that came out a few months ago, which relied on Taylor Lautner to emote. He was clearly out of his depth, as Carano would have been in “Haywire” if she were given such scenes.
But Soderbergh realized that we didn’t need to see her weep and twist up in angst. She’s there to kick ass and look pretty. And sure, the choice of wardrobe is a little silly, making her look almost too trendy at times. But she’s likable enough (and believable enough) in her deadpan delivery to make us get behind her.
“Haywire” is a fun, hip and cool film that’s got some great action and not a small dose of tension-relieving humor. It also runs a brisk and refreshing 93 minutes, so it never overstays its welcome and leaves you wanting more.
I was surprised at how much I liked this film, and I’d be totally behind seeing more of Carano in another excursion with Soderbergh behind the wheel.