Any movie that starts with Channing Tatum getting the snot beaten out of him by a girl – a super sexy, tough-as-nails girl at that – has automatically scored points with this red blooded male. It’s not too difficult to discern what director Steven Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobs were thinking when they came up with the premise of their new movie Haywire; it is simply Bourne with a babe! And before you say it, didn’t Hollywood do this last year with ‘Salt’? Stop! That was The Fugitive with a skeleton.
So we meet Mallory (MMA star Gina Carano in her first leading role) a freelance killing machine, slumped in the snow outside a diner in the middle of nowhere. Why she is freezing her ass off out here and not already inside is never addressed, as she proceeds to go in, order a coffee and then wait several minutes for Tatum to arrive. There’s a dense air of animosity and suspicion between the two and ‘Barcelona’ is mentioned a lot before Tatum tosses a cup of boiling coffee in her face and tries to manhandle her into his custody – big mistake. Carano unleashes Hell on Tatum in a scene hard-hitting violence reminiscent of Bourne but captured with basic camera techniques and using just diegetic sound. The result is a fresh, effective fight scene, far more powerful than the fast cutting, sound effects laden, high tempo pieces that dominate the typical thriller/ action genre output. You feel each punch. And the fact it is being unleashed by a former MMA champion gives another level of authenticity. This style is continued throughout the film and is highly effective, proving that sometimes the basic option is the best.
But this realism of the opening scene is followed by a scene of absolute lunacy that brings into question the authenticity of scenario and character, taking it from realistic to implausible. Mallory commandeers the vehicle of a fellow diner and takes the automobile owner – a plucky chap named Scott – along for the ride. She drives the car, she doesn’t take him as a hostage, he doesn’t have any role in the plot or the development of Mallory’s character; thus his sole purpose is to be there as a bouncing board for her to relay the events that brought her to this place. It’s a hideous bridging device and sloppy story telling that pulls you out of the plot, which is threadbare as it is.
Turns out Mallory was sent by her boss and jilted ex-boyfriend Ewan McGregor to the much mentioned Barcelona to free a man who is being held hostage. With the help of Tatem she manages to free him, kicking the asses of a number of dudes along the way in typically devastating and realistic style. After turning him over to Antonio Banderas, who is working in conjunction with Michael Douglas, she was sent to Ireland to pose as fellow assassin Michael Fassbender’s girlfriend to take down an “unrelated” corrupt businessman. Here she finds out she has been double crossed, just before Fassbender tries to kill her and thus we descend into an ‘innocent protagonist trying to clear their name’ scenario which ropes in Mallory’s father – Bill Paxton in his first mainstream movie since… uh…
The action is nicely plotted and always suspenseful, realistic and thoroughly entertaining. Carano proves adept as a leading lady; any reservations about her acting chops cannot be fully addressed in this role, but it’s a far better outing than many wrestlers/ boxers/ sports stars who attempt to move from arena to screen. She doesn’t say much, but when she does speak she makes it count and it feels real. Much like Eastwood, she manages to say much by saying very little, which feels entirely natural for her character of an ex-soldier turned freelance odd-job.
Her enthusiasm and level of accomplishment is sadly lacking with older, far more experienced and supposed ‘actors’ by trade. Paxton convinces as Mallory’s writer father by virtue of the fact he wears glasses and a moustache; what else need he do? But his character has no function other than to show she has something to lose. Sadly their relationship is little more than them being related by blood. Banderas sports a beard better than most as a corrupt something-or-other; Douglas sits behind a desk in style playing a… politician? And just when you thought Ewan McGregor could never better his half-hearted performances as Obi-Wan he blows it right out of the park as Mallory’s jealous ex-boyfriend and employer. Fassbender comes out unscathed, but only because he does his own stunts for the film’s best set piece where he gets the ever-loving snot beaten out of him by Carano in a hotel room. While the others yawn their way to the bank he at least broke a sweat for the green.
The real villain of the piece is Soderbergh. How an Oscar winning director who clearly understands story development and character felt this was worthy of consumption by an audience is beyond me. So while the realistic action scenes are refreshing and Carano shows that she may have some potential as an actress, it’s as if she was the only one who took this limp action thriller seriously, including the writer and director who are certainly better than this script. It leaves you thinking, what was the point?
Haywire is released in UK cinemas on Wednesday January 18th and in the US on Friday January 20th.
- 8 Actresses Who Tricked You Into Thinking You Saw Them Nude
- 11 Irresistible Movie Moments That Wore Out Your Pause Button
- 100 Things Wrong With The Dark Knight Rises [Video]
- 10 Scenes You Won't Believe You Missed in 2012
- 10 Most Infuriating Movie Cliffhangers
- 10 Major Plot Holes You Probably Missed
- 10 Happy Movie Endings That Probably Had Horrific Consequences
- 12 Ruthless Movie Villains Who Were Defeated By Complete Fools