Haywire

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Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano and Bill Paxton

A black ops mercenary Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) becomes a target in order for her employer Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) to frame her for killing someone she was hired to extract. She escapes the attempt on her life and seeks out all involved in her betrayal for revenge.

This film snuck into Australia without a whimper. Even us Film Reviewing types were baffled to discover that despite no media screenings, announced release dates and a non-existent advertising campaign a Steven (Ocean’s Trilogy, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Che etc) Soderbergh film appeared on screening schedules of a select group of Sydney cinemas. Despite the critical reception for this film, and it’s notably small box office taking in the U.S (despite the cracking assembly of performers) I’ll always have time for this great and prolific auteur.

Soderbergh’s an art film-maker. And it is very refreshing to watch his steady composition of the action sequences in the film not adhering to the Greengrass shaky cam influence that’s become a hallmark of action and espionage cinema since then. Soderbergh clearly relishes being able to rely on the physical performance of his lead to be able to show the devastating hits, and artful fighting skills – instead of using directorial techniques to emphasize the action.

Writer Dobbs compiles a fairly generic noir espionage revenge film that lacks depth. I found myself watching the mystery unfold devoid of care, counting down the moments to see Carano in action once again. Fortunately, Soderbergh’s prestige draws great people to the project.

The stellar all male cast all provide quite accomplished, if brief performances. Antonio Banderas is his subtle best as the ominous and sinister Rodrigo (architect of the trouble). Ewan McGregor’s Kenneth is an altogether forgettable performance as her judas-esque employer. Channing Tatum is solid as Aaron which gives me hope that his collaboration with Soderbergh later this year in Magic Mike will be his breakout performance. Fassbender relished playing a spy for the briefest of moments and showed some action chops in a particularly brutal face-off with Carano. Michael Douglas was bringing the old head to proceedings as the Government officer guiding her vengeance; while Bill Paxton showed that he can look down in a movie without saying “we’re all gonna die mannnnnnn!!!”

There have been a number of iconic arse-kicking chicks in cinematic/T.V history: most of whom are ultimately dainty and quite tiny, agile ladies that for one reason or another are imbued with some kind of ‘power’. The most physically believable arse-kicking chick in my mind is Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) circa T2. Carano redefines cinematic physical action performances by a woman. Her life as a fighter is undeniable in every gesture of her performance. She stalks through the scenes and the clashes and hits are bone-jarring to say the least. It’s beautiful watching the Jujitsu influence in MMA leaking its way into action cinema as Carano, whips around and wraps up her opponents in fluid grapples and holds to incapacitate them. Looking at how Carano interprets the character really made me appreciate the ‘Identity’ in the Bourne Series. The Bourne Identity, Jason (Matt Damon) was a much more vocal, relatable lead, as the amnesiac on a voyage of self discovery. When you’re reintroduced to the tortured, monosyllabic and wounded lead in Supremacy (and because Damon is one of the finest actors of our generation) he’s able to provide a wonderfully subtle gestural performance that enunciates so much. Carano similarly is the cold, calculating ice woman of female Supremacy-esque Bourne but perhaps because of her inexperience doesn’t give a lot that empowers her performance in the scenes that she’s not beating men senseless.

Haywire is an action vehicle for the leading lady and former Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) champion, turned actor Gina Carano. And if you were to look at it as an assembly of tough (non-action) leading actors being lined up to have the crap beaten out of them by Carano – then it’s a total success. Looking at it as an espionage thriller it fails to be much more than an aesthetically good looking ‘actioner’ – lacking substance.

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman