I had seen trailers, posters, and knew the plot of Haywire before I saw it recently. It looked like it was going to be another version of Salt. I thought Salt was an okay movie, but it didn’t measure up to the standard set by the Bourne franchise. The Bourne trilogy has definitely raised the bar for films in this genre. The modern version of the spy action thriller can never be viewed the same. With my anticipation (and expectations) high for The Bourne Legacy, I really wasn’t in the mood to see anything that might fall flat in comparison. Two things drew me into watching Haywire - the cast and the director. With the mix of actors in the cast, I felt certain that, at the least, the performances would be interesting and worth the watch. And with Steven Soderbergh directing, I wondered what his “take” on this kind of story would be. Haywire is far from a perfect movie and it has its shortcomings, but it definitely surpassed my expectations. I had a great time watching it.
Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a freelance black ops specialist working for a small firm that takes on jobs from anybody with the money to pay for their services – secret government agencies and private interests alike. Following immediately on the heels of a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, Mallory is sent by her employer, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), on another mission to Dublin. It’s supposed to be a simple two-day job where Mallory’s role is in support of a British agent, Paul (Michael Fassbender). The mission goes awry when Mallory finds out that she’s been double-crossed and set up as the “fall guy” in a plot of international intrigue – typical spy movie cliché material. She has to use all or her considerable skills, tricks and fighting abilities to elude an international manhunt, get to the bottom of plot, and exact her own brand of justice on her betrayers.
The script, direction, and story are heavily clichéd and can be way too predictable, but they maintain a decent enough pace and really showcase Carano’s screen appeal and amazing physicality in her first starring role. While watching, you really don’t care too much for the overall story. You just want Mallory to come out on top. Aside from Mallory, Jay, her employer, and one other agent, Aaron (Channing Tatum), the characters aren’t given much depth. They all feel like just another guy Mallory has to defeat. This is a somewhat small complaint, however. The film moves forward at such a frenetic pace and has such great fun with Mallory’s dispatching of one nemesis after another that character development isn’t a huge issue.
The best thing Haywire has to offer is the action scenes. Before I had too much time to focus on any weaknesses in the plot, an amazing fight scene would pull me right back into the story. The opening fight scene is outstanding; it sets the tone. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The best scene is easily the one involving Fassbender’s character. It might be one to put in the fight-scene time capsule. The camerawork is deliberately calculated throughout, but the skill at which the choreographed battles are framed is magnificent. Every fight scene feels real. They’re each thrilling and exciting to watch in their own right and almost all the characters interact in a fight at some point.
The acting is good, across the board. Gina Carano has little acting experience. It shows at times, but she holds her own with a cast of experienced supporting actors, including Michael Douglas as the department head of a US government spy agency. Her facial expressions are very well done and she delivers a solid performance, overall. She is outstanding in the fight scenes. This action role suits her well, I look forward to what she does next (aside from Haywire sequels). 2012 has been an excellent year for Channing Tatum. My opinion of him has done a complete 360. With this film, 21 Jump Street, The Vow, and Magic Mike he has proven that he isn’t just a pretty boy. He can actually act. Tatum doesn’t have the leading role, but he delivers a top notch performance in all of his scenes – he nails each and every one and fits into the all-star supporting cast perfectly. Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, Michael Angarano, Mathieu Kassovitz, and Antonio Banderas give fine supporting performances, as well. Fassbender is the best out of the supporting cast. He exudes malevolent charm and his performance captures the character pitch perfect.
Despite a clichéd plot, Haywire is an excellent example of an A-list director bringing his skills to bear on an otherwise formulaic spy thriller genre and elevating it to its true entertainment value potential. He correctly assumes that the audience for this type of movie isn’t interested in a lot of dialog, but nonetheless, his scriptwriter, Lem Dobbs, contributes just the right amount of wry wit and precise wording for the characters to keep the story interesting and engaging to a passable point. Carano shines in her first starring role (action wise) and I’m sure I witnessed the birth of a new action heroine movie star. We will be seeing a lot more from her in the future. The movie was at it’s very best when Carano was fighting. Soderbergh’s style is unmistakably present and the movie benefited from it. A lot of things in the movie could have been given more thought, but it does manage to make you want to see the sequel. That’s something that few movies can do for me; I look forward to “Haywire 2.” If it builds and improves on the first movie, it could be the next Bourne series. This series has potential. Go see it for yourself, you’ll have a good time.