“Haywire” is an entertaining film based on a seemingly bland premise of spy action movie. Although its plot is a little shaky(I do not exactly understand what the bad guys gain through their scheme though their motive is explained later), the movie efficiently moves along the various places while providing us several nice realistic action scenes, and they are better than what we usually get from those bland blockbuster action films.
And it also has a good action movie character who is not only attractive as required but also tough as demanded. We have recently been witnessing the notable appearances of strong, brave, and clever female characters including Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”(2012), Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”(2011), and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw in “Prometheus”(2012), and Mallory Kane, played by a newcomer actress Gina Carano, is as engaging and tough as these memorable female characters. We do not know much about her, but Kane is very skillful at her job, and it is always interesting to see a good professional at work.
Mallory Kane has been working as a special agent for some private contract company connected with the US government. She is not exactly a government employee, but she and other employees are more or less than the unofficial agents hired by the US government through their company, and the high-ranking officials in Washington need Kane and other agents for the dirty or risky missions which they do not want to get directly associated with,
After one violent encounter with one of her fellow agents at the cafe, the movie goes back to several days ago through flashback while Kane tells her story to one young man while driving his car. As her direct boss ordered, Kane was dispatched to Barcelona for the mission to rescue a hostage held in some building, and, though there were several problems during the mission, the hostage was safely rescued and then handed to her guys at the airport in the end. Through precise and concise editing and camerawork, the director Steven Soderbergh makes this process look smooth and compelling. Even when it is just one character chasing after the other character along the streets, it is more exciting than you think because we can see that they are really running on the screen while the camera are capturing their movements from several viewpoints.
While she was considering quitting the company, Kane was quickly assigned to another mission right after her job at Barcelona. All she had to do was pretending to be the other agent’s wife at the manor outside Dublin, but she was suspicious about this mission from the start. As expected, she quickly realized that she was betrayed by someone in her company, and now she is running away from her enemies as well as the police.
Gina Carano, ex-mixed martial arts player, is believable as an action movie heroine who can use her brain and body quick and fast for her survival. She has a little acting experience before this film, and I think she was cast for her physical ability rather than her acting talent like Sasha Grey in Soderbergh’s previous work “The Girlfriend Experience”(2009), but all of us can agree that she does have the potential of an action movie star. While her performance is sometimes flat, but her presence is engaging from the opening scene, and she looks great when she wears dress – maybe she can appear in James Bond movie someday.
The actions in the film are impressive because it looks like Carano and her co-performers really throw themselves into the actions. Without choppy editing style or exciting score, the fight scenes between the characters are depicted with the considerable degrees of realism; they use every possible way to suppress each other through their bodies and space, and their violent struggles are vividly presented through the sound effects from them and the other objects near them.
The screenplay written by Lem Dobbs is a standard action film plot which mainly works as a coat hanger for the actions in the movie, but it has its own small amusement while not trying to be too serious about its story. The characters are mostly two-dimensional to say the least, but, thanks to Soderbergh’s reputation, we see well-known actors like Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, and Michael Douglas surrounding Carano, and they ably fill their respective positions while supporting her well. Maybe she is not a talented actress, but Carano clicks well with her co-actors while firmly holding the center of the story, and some of them have a pretty tough time with her in the movie.
While watching “Haywire”, I began to think about “The Raid: Redemption”(2011), the other recent martial arts action film I watched in the last month. I sort of admired the relentless energy behind its ruthless execution of realistic action scenes, but the absence of a good story and good characters made me ultimately distant toward what was happening on the screen, and I also got increasingly bothered by its bloody mayhem which cared nothing except its body count.
Of course, the plot of “Haywire” is as thin as the premise of “The Raid: Redemption”, and it also has the moments of brutal violence, but there are differences between them. The former has a good character who is a lot more interesting and fascinating than the colorless hero of the latter, and its actions are presented with a far more style and wit under Soderbergh’s deft and economic direction, and Carano is competent as a strong heroine you don’t want to mess with while you are alive. Seriously, how do they come to think they can frame and then eliminate her?