Monday, January 16, 2012

Haywire (2012)

You know the archetype of there being one film released during January that actually turns out decent? Well look no further, because Steven Soderbergh's "Haywire" perfectly fits that description. This has been my most anticipated film for the month of January, and I had the special privilege of seeing it at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. So does it stand alongside other great femme fatale action films like "La Femme Nikita" and the "Kill Bill," or is it a rugged entry in director Steven Soderbergh's lengthy filmography?

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a female covert operative that's hired to perform jobs across the globe that the government can't authorize. After successfully completing a hostage rescue mission in Barcelona, she's immediately dispatched on another mission to Dublin. However, the operation goes awry and she gets double crossed in the process. Mallory decides to utilize all of her skills and tactics to escape an international manhunt warranted on her, and to exact revenge on those who betrayed her. Now while the film's plot is derivative, don't let that stop you from being entertained, because this is definitely the first good movie to release in January this year.
Retired MMA fighter also known as the gladiator "Crush" in NBC's short revival of "American Gladiators," Gina Carano makes her feature film acting debut as covert operative Mallory Kane. Her line delivery is one-note and flat at several times, but she certainly shines in the film's action sequences. Carano's background as an MMA fighter translates to visceral hand-to-hand-combat beauty, mostly due to the fact that she did all of her own stunts as well. The film highlights a great supporting cast which includes Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. All of them deliver solid performances in their roles, especially with some of them working with characters that don't appear much in the film (Banderas and Douglas). Props to director Steven Soderbergh as well for getting me to say that I actually thought Channing Tatum was actually decent in his acting, which is a rare compliment I give regarding to how much of a below average actor I think Tatum is.

After delivering with the solid ensemble disease drama "Contagion," director Steven Soderbergh continues to prove that he's one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood, especially when he works a big A-list ensemble cast. Though the material he's working with is derivative, Soderbergh still manages to make it own. He chooses to forgo kinetic scores and handheld camera style when filming the action scenes, and instead relies on wide static angles and the sound of raw, visceral sound of realistic punches and kicks. Additionally, the marketing for this film is a tad misleading, because it's being promoted as an all-out action thriller, but it's really more of a low-key, visceral action film with a fair use of indie conventions.
Even though "Haywire" is a solid entry in the month of January, there were two key things that prevented me from loving it. First off, the explanation of why they betrayed Mallory in the first place felt lazy and unfulfilling. In addition, the ending is bound to divide certain crowds once the film is released to the public. While it does end on a clever note, it left me wanting to see the big final payoff and the film just ending at the point didn't do the final act complete justice. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs' script is infused with archetypes of revenge and double-crossing, and if it wasn't in the hands of Soderbergh, the final outcome would've been entirely different.

Despite the minor flaws, "Haywire" is a stylish low-key, visceral action film succeeding on director Steven Soderbergh's smart filming style and great utilization of his A-list ensemble cast. While her acting will improve over time, Gina Carano is bound to be a future action star in the making, because she definitely proves herself as one with her solid lead performance in this film. Thankfully it didn't take too long for the first good film to release during January, so be sure to check out "Haywire" once it releases, but don't expect it to be an action movie in terms of the majority of the ones released in the past few years. Instead, expect it to be a little bit like last year's "Hanna," where while it's coined as an action movie, it's made in a style that sets itself apart from the conventions shown in today's array of movies from that genre.

Final Grade: B

Review of "Haywire" on Youtube


  1. I can't say I will watch this one soon. It really just looks like a dumb action film. I'm not a big fan of the genre. though, your reviewing is encouraging.

  2. Great review! It really makes me wanna see it more now. I like how you warn us this isn't like other action films and that the main star is pretty good at what she's doing. Nice length, too.

    1. Thanks Rafael. Thanks for following my blog,too!

  3. Excellent review! This was the only film in January that I was really looking forward to and seeing the positive reception it has been getting (alongside your positive review of course) makes me quite excited that the first good movie of 2012 is coming earlier this year.