Haywire: Soderburgh gets the comfort of knowing that he tried action

Haywire -2012

Directed by Stephen Soderbergh
Starring Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Screenplay by Lem Dobbs

Gina Carano looks like she’s taken out more than a few people in her life.  Watching her march through an assemblage of bad guys in Haywire, the only thing I could think about is how much it would hurt to be beat up by her.  This is good in assessing her ability to do her own stunts, but it is quite distracting when she puts on a dress and heads for a night out.  Don’t get me wrong, she is beautiful.  It’s just more athletically inclined, and not a high heels, out on the town sort of beauty.  She is as good a fighter as I have seen on film since Hilary Swank’s last boxing opponent in Million Dollar Baby, but everything about her just screams cross fit, rather than character development.  Still, she is not the problem with this film.

To discuss the film in terms of problems is a little unfair.  It is a slightly above average film with more benefits than detractions.  There are as many stars in this film as was in the last, say, Ocean’s film.  They all are used sparingly, but still effectively, for the most part.  This goes especially for Tatum.  In somewhat the same vein as his meat head performance as Zip in the otherwise miserable, The Dilemma, he plays a person vacant of much except for the job at hand.  His interactions with Carano’s Mallory Kane, as well as McGregor’s Kenneth ring true.

McGregor’s performance, as the main bad guy, is perhaps the weakest performance.  He plays it in such a minimalist way, he seems more like the nerd in Jr. High who has decided, for the first time, to pick on someone he thinks is weaker than he, only to find that even smaller people can fight better than he.

The most taxing part of Haywire is the style employed by Soderburgh.  Never the most linear director, this usually works as a strength in his films, such as The Limey and Out of Sight.  The narrative style of the film, where Kane takes a young man “hostage,” after a particularly brutal encounter and proceeds to spill the beans in the subsequent car ride, is clunky, especially in the transitions.  As she goes into such detail, one can only question why someone of her profession would ever be so open with a citizen she barely knows.  The saddest and truest answer to this query is because the script told her to.  The kid seems even less of an actor than does Carano.  I think it’s more indicative of the choppy editing style of Soderburgh than anything else.

The feeling for the viewer of Haywire is not so much wall to wall action mixed with intrigue, as an awkward series of cuts and angles that deflate the intensity of the people on screen.  The reader should know that I am a huge fan of Soderburgh, and was very much looking forward to this film, featuring a woman who could truly kick some ass, not 98 lb Angelina Jolie with 2 lbs of lipstick.  Something is missing here, though.  There is a statement that the director is trying to make that one ready to see some serious action is not going to be prepared to absorb.  It may well be that it is so true to viewing action for action’s sake, this viewer did not make the transition between this and, say, MI: Ghost Protocol.

There may be some who like this better than me.  The film got an 80% on Rotten Tomatoes.  It was as much a labor for me to view as it was a joy.

(*** out of *****)

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