Haywire (Relativity Media, R)

film haywire smGina Carano certainly wins the audience over in the fight scenes, so I see potential for her to have a future; I just can’t fully endorse her at this point.

film haywire lg

Steven Soderbergh may have the most diverse filmography of any director. From the beginning of his career, he has always shown a desire to try new things. Haywire is his first straight action movie, which got me very intrigued. He has said that he conceived of this film as a vehicle for Gina Carano, a female martial arts champion who captured his attention. The story he puts her in is very familiar: She plays a dangerous secret agent who is betrayed by her government, and has to find out what went wrong and get revenge while on the run. I hate to be this obvious and lame, but the movie gives me no choice but to refer to it as a female Jason Bourne film. That’s OK. Familiar stories work well in low-budget action movies, and it’s all about the execution, so I went in with high hopes.

The only way to approach this movie is to discuss Gina Carano. First off, I can understand what Soderbergh saw in her. She is a beautiful and amazingly talented fighter and all-around physical performer. She is totally magnetic and great to watch…except when she speaks. Now, to be fair, Soderbergh made the very odd choice to digitally lower her voice, which may account for how bad her line deliveries are. Whenever she has any lengthy exchanges of dialogue, the movie grinds to a shrieking halt especially when she is sharing scenes with the charisma vacuum that is Channing Tatum. It is a performance which I am completely mixed on. Will this movie make her a star? It’s tough to say. She certainly wins the audience over in the fight scenes, so I see potential for her to have a future; I just can’t fully endorse her at this point.

Now you can take my basic review of Gina Carano and apply it to the film as a whole: I am split right down the middle. Every time I start thinking about the film in negative terms, I remember a lot of things about it I really liked. Then I start thinking about it in positive terms and I remember a lot of things I really disliked. I love Carano’s physicality but hate her dialogue, of which there is too much. I love the cast but hate that they are given nothing to do. Even Fassbender is boring in this film, although his fight with Carano may be the best scene of the movie. Antonio Banderas manages to be fun in his role, but his character is completely useless.

Soderbergh tries to emulate the style of an action movie from the ’60s or ’70s, which I love. Some of the music and editing techniques are right on point and had me giddy with glee. But the film as a whole lacks a certain punch and grittiness that was present in the movies he’s referencing. I loved that the fight scenes were shot in ways that were clear and easy to follow, and I loved that it was clearly the actress doing her own stunts, taking and dishing out hits that seem real and brutal. Yet a lot of the shootouts and a big car chase near the end are done in ways that almost put me to sleep. I was constantly coping with this back and forth, which made the movie a very frustrating experience. It’s either an incredibly flawed good movie, or a bad movie with some really great elements.

I like this version of a female action hero; I think Haywire is more in line with Kill Bill and some of Angelina Jolie’s action movies in which the character is really a strong woman, as opposed to movies like Underworld or Resident Evil in which we are given a fetish-ized male fantasy of a strong woman. I would recommend this to parents of youngish girls who want their daughters to see a strong female heroine but can’t take them to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Haywire is rated R for violence, though I got the sense they were trying for a PG-13 and just got a little too bone crunching in the fights.) For everyone else, I don’t know. I can’t even tell you if I liked it or not. | Sean Lass

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