Review: Haywire

Written & Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Gina Carano, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGreggor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton

Rating:   Running Time: 93 mins

Starring Mixed Martial-Arts fighter Gina Carano in the lead, Haywire follows Mallory, an ex-Marine who now works for the private sector. As the movie opens, Mallory arrives at a truckstop diner, waiting for a meeting, but is surprised to see Aaron (Channing Tatum) turn up, having been sent to collect her. When she refuses to go with him, Aaron tries to force her, and the two of them fight with Mallory ending up being shot in the arm. When Scott (Michael Angarano), an onlooker in the diner intervenes, Mallory leaves with him hurredly, taking him and his car, and explains the details of what just happened, starting with the details of a mission a week before.

The movie then starts a series of lengthy flashback sequences, starting with Mallory meeting with her boss and ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGreggor) after he is asked for her by his government contact Coblenz (Michael Douglas). She agrees to go on the mission to Barcelona, to rescue a kidnapped journalist, during which she meets Aaron. The mission is successful, and the two of them hand off the journalist to Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). Back in the US, Mallory is again asked by Kenneth to go on another mission, this time appearing as the wife of an MI6 agent in Ireland when he meets with his contact. Agreeing to do the mission as her last before retiring, Mallory leaves for Ireland, unaware that the mission is not what it seems.

Soderbergh is a director who likes to make movies with an all star cast, his last movie Contagion is a perfect example of this, where there are many characters, all played by well known actors, in an ensemble piece rather than focusing on one main character, and as a result the story gets a little short-handed. In Haywire, he’s done very much the same thing, except to have a main character, played by someone who is more suited to the action scenes than the acting ones. Carano is given scenes that need acting abilities, and in her first lead performance, is actually not bad, playing her part very reserved emotionally, as an ex-Marine would be. She excells in the action sequences, the opening scene with her against Tatum in the diner is a good action piece, and does not pull any punches, with hard hits dished out and received by both participants of the fight, as there are throughout the movie in any of the fights. This is first and foremost an action movie, something akin to the level found in a ‘produced by Luc Besson’ movie. It’s not bad, but it is far from excellent, and in desperate need of development for it’s characters.

Again, Soderbergh has built the movie on an all star cast, McGreggor perhaps is the most surprising, as he has maybe the most screen time besides Carano, and is largely wasted in his scenes, Fassbender is brilliant as ever, but does not have much acting screen time, but does hold his own during a brutal fight scene, as does Tatum who is perhaps the one character who gets the most development throughout the movie. I honestly don’t know why Douglas, Banderas and even Bill Paxton are in this movie, as their parts are not in need of such high calibre actors, with some of them receiving what seems like less than 10 minutes of screen time (Paxton was reportedly cast as a replacement for Dennis Quaid who had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, but Quaid would have been an equally confusing choice to cast).

Another thing that I have issues with and found to be hugely distracting throughout is the choice of music by David Holmes for the score of the movie. If you’re curious of his style of music, go back and watch any one of the three Ocean’s movies that Soderbergh made, all of which have music scores composed by Holmes that I love and are perfect for those kinds of movies. Unfortunately, he uses the same kind of music to score Haywire, and for me this just did not fit the tone or the sequences throughout, it suits a caper movie more than a spy/action thriller. Something similar to the music used for his last movie Contagion would have been better suited, and less distracting.

The movie’s story is convoluted as a spy thriller should be, but because of the number of big name stars involved that the viewer is distracted by just how many characters they are meant to be following. If you’re looking for a well written and crafted spy thriller, then you will most likely be entertained by the action and decent direction, but be left wanting for more characterisation. Haywire delivers the action in spades, and Soderbergh cannot be faulted for actually making a more than watchable movie with an MMA fighter in the lead role and for a reported budget of only $25 million, but had it not been for the cast involved, Haywire would have been in the straight to video action section. Not bad for what it is, but nothing like what it wants to be, see it at the cinema if you must, but you’de probably wish you’de waited until it was on DVD to rent.

Posted on January 22, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Your comparison to Contagion is a good one. Both films rely on all star casts. Haywire almost feels as if Steven Soderbergh decided to surround Carano with well known actors to support her lack of acting experience. I liked Bill Paxton in the film. I understand why he took the part, it’s Steven Soderbergh for goodness sakes! Paxton’s emotional connection to his daughter was perceptible even in his short screen time. (It makes me feel old that Paxton is playing the father to someone as mature as Carano. I still think of him as Chet, Wyatt’s older brother in Weird Science. I also loved the score. It elevated the picture and made it seem much more than just another spy thriller (which it basically is anyway…lol) I liked your review though. I agree with most of it.

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