Review: Haywire (2011)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

***

Movies can originate from very simple ideas. For example, Steven Soderbergh saw MMA star Gina Carano fighting whilst flicking through the channels on the TV in a hotel he was staying in. He thought she’d make a great lead in an action move, and that movie is Haywire. Despite the erratic nature of the quality of his output of late, Soderbergh’s instincts seem right on the money.

Haywire is another action movie that does everything but take itself seriously. Thank goodness it doesn’t take itself seriously, because that would just suck all the fun out of it. Contagion offered no levity of any kind, just a boring and bored Matt Damon shifting units of Purell. Haywire opens with Mallory (Carano) and fellow agent Aaron (Channing Tatum) beating the almighty crap out of each other in a café. Had Matt Damon been in this, it would’ve been po-faced. However, the very pretty Carano kicking seven shades of proverbial out of the almost-equally pretty Tatum (Even he must know he’s a model posing as an actor.) is hilarious. They’re not physically matched, he comes in all preening and tough, and he starts the fight, but she just lays him out flat. She then takes a hostage (Michael Angarano), commandeers his car and tells him us how she came to be on the run. The story’s sub-Bourne hokum; after a job in Barcelona, which is exciting and full of running and punches, Mallory gets sent on a job to Dublin by her boss/ex Kenneth (Ewan McGregor, sporting a combover despite not being bald). The Dublin job’s a setup, and Mallory proceeds to run, punch and then run some more. In the process, she beats the hell out of Michael “where’s my goddamn Oscar?” Fassbender and takes us on a tour of the rooftops of Dublin’s fair city. Despite the excellent supporting cast, which includes Michael Douglas’ CIA man and Antonio Banderas’ Spanish agent, Carano is the deserving focus of Haywire. With looks reminiscent of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction and reflexes that threaten whiplash just by watching her, Carano has the potential to be a movie star, and evidence of sufficient acting chops to back her up.

Lem Dobbs‘ script makes sure Mallory has enough international locales to provide interesting backdrops for the fight scenes. Let’s face it; Haywire exists so audiences can watch Carano do what she does best. The talk is perfunctory; action is the goal. Soderbergh may be an auteur at heart, but Haywire is a barebones action flick: Bourne without the brains or Bond without the suits. What it does have, however, is its fair share of exciting punch-’em-ups and a leading lady who demands (not requests, demands) your attention. Haywire may be forgettable; Carano is not.

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