MMA Fighter / Actress Gina Carano arrives at Relativity Media's premiere of "Haywire" co-hosted by Playboy held at DGA Theater on January 5, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)more pics » The Bottom Line
Should you see it?
Haywire has some great fight scenes but there is nothing invested in the characters so who cares who wins?
Steven Soderberg has a thing for untested talent. In 2009 he plucked Sasha Grey from the adult movie industry to have her star in the well-received The Girlfriend Experiment. In Haywire he tries to repeat his success by turning Gina Carano, the woman who pioneered women's mixed martial arts fighting, into a rogue government operative, fighting her way through a litany of Hollywood A-listers trying to kill her. Unfortunately Carano cannot act, but she sure can fight.
Mallory Kane (Carano) begins the film by kicking the shit out of Aaron (Channing Tatum) in a coffee shop. The two previously worked together "for the government," a detail she shares with Scott (Michael Angarano), a teenager whose car she steals, while they flee the scene. During the ride, she recounts all that has happened to her and thus, we flashback and learn her story.
Shown in idiot-proof black and white in spots, the flashbacks serve their purpose as we see Mallory with Aaron on an early assignment and learn they were lovers. This is about all the character development we get. Afterwards, Mallory is sent on another mission by a superior, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), to team with an MI6 agent (Michael Fassbender). She is double-crossed during the mission and spends the rest of the film seeking revenge on her colleagues.
McGregor and Fassbender are both excellent as usual, but they make Carano seem strangely out of place. Watching this muscular MMA fighter beat up on the Hollywood elite is weirdly inauthentic. You never saw Tom Hanks in a Van Damme movie.
Michael Douglas and a bearded Antonio Banderas also have small roles as power players behind the curtain. They are almost wholly wasted. Bill Paxton does have a solid scene as Mallory's loyal father. It makes sense why Soderbergh called out the troops for supporting roles in Haywire. There's no way Carano could carry the film on her own, and screenwriter Lem Dobbs' characters are thinly sketched.
As a brainless fight film, Haywire works. Soderbergh is a professional director, and it's interesting to see a Hollywood veteran make a genre film. The reality of the fight choreography is impressive and Carano definitely has some moves (not to mention her stunt double). Unfortunately her vapid delivery and robotic movements outside of the fight scenes drag Haywire down to levels of farce. She does not change her facial expressions and delivers each line with casual abandon (it's rumored but unconfirmed Carano's voice was dubbed over in post-production).
Carano tears through her opponents with relentless
violence, yet she rarely makes a sound. Despite taking a multitude of hits, we only ever feel one, when she falls from a building and loses her wind. This may seem like a small thing, but there is plenty of acting in great fight scenes. Otherwise, we are watching Bugs and Daffy pummel one another with anvils.
David Holmes' score plods along in a weak 007-ish attempt at intrigue. Soderbergh typically slows his films down with boring jazz and Haywire is the latest example. At least the director spares us any stylistic editing to make the action seem even more important than it is.
The film has the Soderbergh look. The scenes are colored in his signature tones as he handles the cinematography and editing himself as usual. The shots do look great and the movie isn't a complete debacle. But, at best, it's a Bourne Identity-wannabe with half the intrigue. Haywire has some fighting moments, but remains half-baked and thoroughly uninteresting.
See more photos from the Haywire premiere: