Haywire is one of those movies that should’ve been a lot more fun than it actually was. The action scenes are well done and the fight sequences are realistic and not overdone to the extreme that you often see in over-the-top Hollywood flicks. However, from the get-go, the movie never has that energy or drive that makes one care about any of these characters, made harder when the supporting cast is only in it for 10-15 minutes at a time.
Lionsgate | R – 93 min. – $39.99 | May 1, 2012
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Writer(s): Lem Dobbs (written by)
Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Theatrical Release Date: January 20, 2012
Features: Featurettes, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 1
Slip Cover? Yes
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Disc Size: 33.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Trying something different, or at the very least simple, director Steven Soderbergh followed up a worldwide pandemic ensemble suspense-drama with a mindless fighter action thriller entitled Haywire. This is the kind of movie where the plot is far too undemanding, which is fine so long as there are other things to take its place, unfortunately for this film, not much else stands out.
The story is easy: a government security contractor black-ops agent named Mallory Kane (GINA CARANO) is the best in her field. She works for Kenneth (EWAN MCGREGOR), a man whom she once had a relationship with but has since cooled, plus after doing many jobs, she’s ready to leave his company and go out on her own. Before the movie began, as the film is told primarily in flashbacks to a stranger who helped Mallory out of a jam (albeit not by choice), her latest mission is in Budapest working with fellow agent Aaron (CHANNING TATUM), to rescue a hostage being held in an apartment. The job basically goes off without a hitch and the man, Jiang, is saved.
Meanwhile, Kenneth wrangles Mallory into one more job: to go to Dublin and pose as the wife of English agent Paul (MICHAEL FASSBENDER) to meet a contact known as Studer (MATHIEU KASSOVITZ). Simple job, it would seem, but of course it is not. Being an agent, she’s not exactly the trusting type and had a tracer put on Paul’s phone and she follows him into a barn. After checking it a bit later, she discovers the dead body of Jiang inside clutching an item that would be immediately recognized as belonging to Mallory. She’s been set up, but by whom? She receives her answer pretty quickly, when back in the hotel room, Paul attacks intending to kill but she manages to get the upper hand and kills Paul. Using his phone, she gets in contact with Kenneth and finds out he set the whole thing up and as the tagline ripped from some bad 1980s action movie: “They gave her no choice.” Indeed they did not.
Now on the run from Kenneth and his band of black-op agents, she has to figure who she can trust and eventually exact revenge on those who have wronged her. The one person she knows she can trust is her father, thriller novelist John Kane (BILL PAXTON). Her pursuers, despite her set of skills, still underestimate her after trying to use her father to try and track her, but she’s two steps ahead and soon enough sets a trap to catch Kenneth.
There are some other plot points in between, but you get the gist. As far as plots go, there’s nothing new here, it’s just a simplified version of The Bourne Identity sans memory loss. Still, I don’t mind silly or simplistic stories so long as there’s something, or somebody, else that can take the place of a good plot. While one could argue Steven Soderbergh’s signature filmmaking style is cool to watch – some scenes are in cool blues while others in warmer oranges, as he did in Traffic and Ocean Eleven – it’s not nearly enough to make this a standout action-thriller.
With regards to the cast, I will say Gina Carano has some good charisma that if given a better script, might’ve made more of an impact, but as you imagine, she wasn’t cast for her acting chops (especially since this is her debut) and instead for her fighting skills which are put to full use with numerous, hard-hitting, fight scenes, which might be the only other thing that stands out in this movie. At the very least, and unlike many other movies with a female lead, it looks like she can dish out and take the punishment with her 150-pound+ muscle-bound frame.
The supporting cast on the surface might be impressive, but don’t be fooled because each one were probably doing Soderbergh a favor. Michael Fassbender as the British agent is only in the movie for maybe 10-15 minutes; Ewan McGregor as the traitor boss for about 15-minutes; Bill Paxton appeared for 5-10 minutes; Channing Tatum, 10-minutes; and Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas were in it for around 5-minutes apiece. So the bulk of Haywire is carried by an unknown, untrained actress, though like I said, she holds her own and when fighting, is obviously in her element.
Haywire was written by Lem Dobbs. You might ask, “Who?” Well, Dobbs was part of the team that wrote Dark City (alongside Alex Proyas and David S. Goyer) and also wrote the 2001 heist/thriller, The Score starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando. Most agree that the latter was a bit underwhelming given the cast, though it’s mostly entertaining. He also wrote another revenge story, The Limey starring Terrence Stamp. For this movie, although it is overly simplistic and extremely predictable, it should’ve been a lot more fun instead being mundane and forgettable.
And that’s the problem with this spy-thriller. It’s glossy and looks great, but with little substance and a cold style, it doesn’t lend to be a fun or entertaining movie. If not for the participation of Steven Soderbergh and cast members Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, this would’ve been one of those direct-to-video releases that no doubt would’ve been panned by critics and audiences alike.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.75/5
The Blu-ray comes with a matted slip cover.
Gina Carano in Training (16:03; HD) – This featurette takes a look at the training Carano did in preparation for this role for the tactical skills needed. It’s nothing fancy as it shows footage from the movie mixed in with interviews with the cast and crew talking about her career in the MMA, and starring in this feature film. It also features rehearsal footage as well.
The Men of Haywire (5:29; HD) is merely a rundown of the supporting cast where the actors get to talk about what drew them to the project and their characters.
Also included is a Digital Copy download code compatible with iTunes.
Previews – The Expendables 2, The Hunger Games, Warrior, Man on a Ledge
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Lionsgate releases Haywire onto Blu-ray with a good looking, if not unremarkable, 1080p high-definition transfer. The movie is presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and the detail levels throughout looks good although it seems it was shot digitally because it’s clean and free of any film grain or noise, thankfully however it doesn’t give off that waxy vibe. The color array is fine but as with Soderbergh’s other movies, it’s pumped up (or down) depending on the mood of the location and/or scene.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
Likewise, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t the best but effective especially for David Holmes’ score recycled score, the dialogue levels and the action scenes. The only part where this lossless track falls a bit flat is during the numerous punches these characters lay on one another, they don’t have much of an impact. Even so, it’s a fine track, just nothing noteworthy.
OVERALL – 2.75/5
Overall, Haywire is one of those movies that should’ve been a lot more fun than it actually was. The action scenes are well done and the fight sequences are realistic and not overdone to the extreme that you often see in over-the-top Hollywood flicks. However, from the get-go, the movie never has that energy or drive that makes one care about any of these characters, made harder when the supporting cast is only in it for 10-15 minutes at a time. Still, Gina Carano, for an untrained actress, was absolutely believable as a kick ass black-ops agent and she holds enough charm to at least keep your attention through the short 85-minute running time.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.