DVD Review: Haywire - Authentic and Well-paced Action Thriller

With the most wafer thin of plots and a refreshingly slender running time, Steven Soderbergh's action-thriller Haywire feels like little more than a star vehicle for its authentic female action star.

rating: 4

With the most wafer thin of plots and a refreshingly slender running time, Steven Soderbergh's action-thriller Haywire feels like little more than a star vehicle for its authentic female action star: Gina Carano - a former champion mixed martial artist in her first major film role. Its perfunctory story can basically be boiled down to: CIA operative is betrayed by her bosses and becomes determined to get revenge. But this is no bad thing, simply creating a framework in which the star gets to beat up beat up the male-dominated supporting cast in a series a fast, brutal and imaginatively choreographed set pieces - flooring the likes of Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor along the way. As hired killer Mallory Kane, Carano is the most capable and interesting action heroine in recent memory, largely down to the fact that her fighting background lends great authenticity and raw physical power to the violence. This isn't a woman who has to pretend to be capable of flooring muscle-bound hunks like Channing Tatum: it's abundantly clear she could beat the crap out of any of her co-stars here. This also gives director Steven Soderbergh the opportunity to stand back and shoot the action scenes in continuous takes, not having to cut around the action to mask a mixture of stunt doubles and stage fighting - as seen in the Bourne movies. For the most part Soderbergh's camera is unfashionably immobile in a way that seems to question the shaky-cam tendencies of the modern action movie. Bourne may have the edge in terms of intricate plotting and nuanced character development, but he simply can't compete with Miss. Kane in terms of action chops. As with Soderbergh's other recent movies (the Ocean trilogy, Contagion, The Informant!) Haywire again sees the prolific director in world tour mode, with the action taking place across Barcelona, Dublin and San Diego. Happily the locations feel as authentic as the action. This isn't a tourists eye view of the featured cities, but a grimy almost mundane glimpse of high-streets and alleyways. For instance, whilst in Dublin, Carano evades a pursuer by running through the back of a Burger King, emerging opposite an HMV - details so normal and so at odds with the glamour of the traditional spy thriller (shot as they are in natural light and on digital cameras) that they brilliantly compliment Carano as a very grounded and believable action star. Carano also convinces wholly in those rare moments outside the action, holding her own alongside established professional actors (Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas are also involved). True, there isn't an awful lot for her to do in terms of developing Mallory as a character, with the filmmakers wisely choosing to avoid putting her on too much of an emotional roller-coaster, but within the range required by the screenplay Carano is immensely capable and never less than fun to watch. A disarming mix of beauty, charisma, and obvious, undeniable physical strength, Carano is a very special and exciting talent. Fans of action movies should not miss Haywire and the chance to enjoy its ass-kicking star.


Whether or not the Blu-ray release has a more compelling feature set I don't know (it's increasingly rare to find online retailers who bother to list the special features), but the DVD copy we were sent is pretty light on extras. There are around fifteen minutes of trailers - including a standard theatrical one as well as a ten minute reel of various character specific versions. Better is a fifteen minute look at Gina Carano's MMA career and her preparation for the fight scenes in the film, showing her training and interviewing key cast members about their experiences fighting with her. This one is pretty interesting, if short. There is a also a five minute look at "The Men of Haywire", which involves short interview snippets with the principle male cast members bar Michael Douglas and Bill Paxton. The fact that this is so short and lacks the participation of those two stars only adds to the feeling that this DVD release has not been given a great deal of TLC. The lack of a commentary track is also glaring considering the director's great track record for recording these for previous projects. Haywire is released on DVD and Blu-ray today.

A regular film and video games contributor for What Culture, Robert also writes reviews and features for The Daily Telegraph, GamesIndustry.biz and The Big Picture Magazine as well as his own Beames on Film blog. He also has essays and reviews in a number of upcoming books by Intellect.