Following the announcement of his upcoming retirement from filmmaking, it seems odd that director Steven Soderbergh would do so, as on the evidence of his extensive CV, he never stops working. Between last year’s disaster horror Contagion and second unit work on Gary Ross’ upcoming adaptation of The Hunger Games, Soderbergh takes a crack at the espionage thriller featuring a star-in-the-making.
Following a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, freelance covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is quickly despatched on another mission to Dublin. During the course of this assignment, Mallory finds she has been double crossed by her handler Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) and thus becomes the mark of an international manhunt. In order to protect her family, Mallory must exact revenge on those who betrayed her.
In recent memory, we have seen a number of great action heroines such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander and Kick-Ass’ Hit-Girl, though one would imagine the character of Mallory Kane to be a female Bourne or Salt 2.0. Although Kane acquires a similar set of skills as Matt Damon’s amnesiac spy, the film itself has a fresh perspective on its genre.
Written by Dark City co-writer Lem Dobbs, Haywire has a fairly simple plot, in which a spy is set up during an assignment and goes on the run, whilst trying to piece together the villains reason for framing her. In terms of structure, the story goes back and forth from a conversation in a car between Kane and a young passenger (comically played by Michael Angarano), the actual plot of the heroine trying to find the culprits. The flashbacks help create a well-constructed thriller with a number of clever surprises.
For those who have seen the poster for Haywire, you might expect a high-octane action extravaganza with a gun-toting female at the centre. This is not the case, but you will get the sense that it’s from the director of Ocean’s Eleven, as the poster says. For starters, the operatives behave naturally to one another like Danny Ocean’s gang. Also, David Holmes’ jazz-infested score is very striking that it almost becomes a character in the film, which has a cool, retro tone.
However, when it comes to the fist-fighting action sequences, the only sounds you hear are punches and kicks, as Soderbergh allows single takes to solely focus on the actors’ brute physicality as oppose to the fast-cutting difficulty of recent blockbusters.
As always with Soderbergh’s films which feature an all-star cast, in this case, it features a male-dominant ensemble including a really bearded Antonio Banderas, a Bond-like figure in the form of Michael Fassbender and an evil Ewan McGregor with a flat accent. However, despite this group of dream men, it is the leading lady that is the real eye-opener as Soderbergh gets a fantastic performance out of newcomer Gina Carano who shows off her mixed martial arts and yet has charisma to champion the likes of Angelina Jolie.
Although it is not up there with the Bourne series (but then what is?), Steven Soderbergh brings his Ocean’s-ness to something that could have easily been generic, along with a fine start for Gina Carano as the next big action heroine.
DIRECTOR: STEVEN SODERBERGH
SCREENWRITER: LEM DOBBS
STARRING: GINA CARANO, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, EWAN MCGREGOR, BILL PAXTON, CHANNING TATUM, ANTONIO BANDERAS, MICHAEL DOUGLAS, MICHAEL ANGARANO, MATHIEU KASSOVITZ
COUNTRY: UNITED STATES
RUNTIME: 93 MINS