Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano,
Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
There is a reason professional athletes stick to sport, and professional actors stick to acting – the skills sets generally don’t intersect.
Steven Soderbergh (Oceans 11/12/13, Traffic, Contagion) sets out to prove that theory wrong in Haywire, enlisting pro Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter Gina Carano as the film’s heroine.
Does it work? Not really. Fighting in a caged octagon is one thing, but playing a character in a movie is a new arena entirely, and her lines don’t deliver the same punch as, well, her punches.
Of course, Soderbergh is shrewd enough to know what Carano’s strengths and weaknesses are onscreen, and for a first-time movie lead, Carano acquits herself capably enough in the smattering of actual ‘acting’ moments in the film.
Still, there’s no disguising that the real purpose of her being there is to provide some high impact fight sequences, and those she delivers in quite spectacular fashion, from her opening diner bout with Channing Tatum to the hotel suite brawl with Michael Fassbender and the many others in between.
With his awful hairdo, McGregor is suitably slimy as Mallory’s betrayer; Bill Paxton is fun in a small role as Mallory’s former Marine-turned-author dad, while Douglas and Banderas bring some gravitas to their respective ‘suit’ roles.
There’s plenty of running and gunning, naturally, but the true highlights are several one-on-one fights between Carano and her male co-stars, showing the combat in wide shots instead of tightly edited exchanges, and making the most of Carano’s natural propensity for violent exchange.
But despite the solid action, it’s hard to see exactly what this film is aspiring to be. Haywire, like last year’s Drive, strips the plot down to its basic parts, leaving only a very lean action flick, but Carano lacks the on-screen presence of Ryan Gosling that made Drive so compelling.
Thanks to a fairly dull script, the final destination of the film is clear, we have a pretty good idea of who’s to blame and what’s going to happen, and none of it is going to be very surprising.
In the end, it comes off as little more than a high octane, low-concept pulpy action flick with the most generic of plots.
2 1/2 stars
– Dane Halpin