By Gary Murray
Starring Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Evan McGregor, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas Michael Douglas and Bill Paxton
Written by Lem Dobbs
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Running time 105 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Cable
Gina Carano is a mixed martial artist who has made some major inroads into popular culture. I had never heard of her but I am told that she is famous in her American Gladiator role of Crush. She makes her action adventure debut in the political thriller Haywire.
The film starts in Medius Rea with Mallory (Gina Carano) going into a diner. She is a woman on the run and is not sure where to turn. Almost instantly Aaron (Channing Tatum) shows up to take her in. The two do battle and Mallory gets the upper-hand. She escapes with a young man and as they travel, she tells him the story to get us caught up to the middle.
A week before, Mallory is working for a private contractor that runs covert operations that the government doesn’t want to take responsibility for. Everyone agrees that she is the best at what she does–a former black ops agent with the decorations to prove her mettle. Sent to Barcelona to extract a Chinese journalist, she is the only woman on the team (and the only woman in the movie) but is the take charge leader who doesn’t leave any loose ends. This is where she meets Aaron.
After delivering the package, she is then sent to Dublin in what is supposed to be an easy ‘baby-sitting’ job with a British agent (Michael Fassbender). Her senses tell her that something doesn’t seem right. Soon, she finds that Dublin is a set-up to end her and clean up what happened in Barcelona. Everyone thinks Mallory is a rogue agent and now they wants her head. She has to figure out who is trying to kill her and why. Haywire twists and turns as Mallory finds that many people in her circle are not who they seem to be.
Haywire is more of a political intrigue than action adventure. There are some set pieces of action but much more of a spy type thriller than a butt-kicking action flick. The Lem Dobbs script is a complicated bit of fluff that delivers only in its overt and unnecessary plodding. A simpler story with more kick-butt sequences would have made for a stronger genre story.
The problem with this film falls exactly in the hands of Steven Soderbergh. Though he is a much lauded director, there is one major weakness with his work. He cannot direct an action sequence if his life depended on it. The set-ups are amateurish and the execution even worse. He captures some of the details of this world without ever having any grasp on how to present the situation. This is a major misfire from a major director.
The film takes place in different place around the globe but it doesn’t take much use of exotic locals. The look of the movie is much more like Bourne than Bond, not flashy but workman in sights and sounds. With so many back streets and roof tops, this film could have taken place just about anywhere.
Though the cast is full of top flight actors, many are given little to do here. Instead of driving the plot along, they seem to be there only for name recognition. This film is laser focused on Gina Carano, our lone female star. She holds her own against some heavyweight talents in the acting department and holds her own in the fighting department. There are so few female action stars that this role is much more of an anomaly than a genre breaking step. She looks the part and delivers when called upon.
In the final analysis, Haywire feels like a B-movie with an A-list cast and much less the sum of its parts. It is a watch-able film just not a memorable one.