Haywire December 24, 2016
Clearly the endgame for Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) is to give MMA fighter Gina Carano plentiful opportunity to promote herself as Steven Seagal with sex appeal, spunk, and estrogen. But with her limited charisma unmatched by her emboldened physicality, the film becomes less about Carano and more about Soderbergh (a versatile filmmaker with no prior experience in the action genre) trying to prove to himself that he can switch gears and pretend that he’s Tarantino directing Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003).
But Soderbergh’s all flash and no pan, an assembler of cool style given no outlet to three-dimensionalize. His determination to characterize Haywire as understated revenge fodder only highlights Carano’s inexperience as an actress. Without his name backing the project and without the astonishingly high number of A-list actors serving as his support team, it’d be unsurprising if all in front of us were actually a 1990s-era Jean-Claude Van Damme direct-to-video vehicle that never quite flew.
The story’s too connect the dots to register as anything more than fluff. In Haywire, Carano is Mallory Kane, a black ops agent on the run from the law following her being framed for murder by her cunning employers. Told almost exclusively in flashback — we’re introduced to her character smack dab in the middle of rendezvous with serious danger — we go through the motions of her backstory as told to the civilian (Michael Angarano) she steals the car of.
Her bosses and peers played by an assortment of big names featured in thankless roles (the ensemble comprised of none other than Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, and Antonio Banderas) — suppose anyone’s willing to work with Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven) no matter the feature — Haywire’s incapable of being seen as a film and not as a point to be proven. Its performances so mechanical and its plot so Point Blank (1967) lite, it encourages pulse-poundings about as well as Cindy Crawford’s acting debut — it’s functional and effective when it needs to be (the fight sequences are the only moments able to inspire any sort of reaction), but it’s action filler missing a necessary frenetic component.
Carano’s attractive and an efficient performer — just look at her steal scenes in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) — but her slim range enforces conclusions that she’s better off a character actress to be confined to meaty supporting roles. The abundance of leading men by her side conversely reminds us why the majority are leading men and not underdogs, and Soderbergh, accomplished as he is, wasn’t made to direct movies with escapist violence at the forefront — he’s too much a humanistic artist to bait popcorn simplicity. And so Haywire’s a mixed bag, proficiently made and acted but unable to connect. It’s diversion without the fun. C