Haywire

The latest film from Director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic”, “Erin Brokovich”, “Contagion”) and the first for MMA superstar Gina Carano hit theatres this weekend. “Haywire” is the story of a double-crossed secret agent on the run from her agency. Set up and sold out, she’s on the run and out to get revenge against those who wronged her.

Sound hackneyed? Been there, done that? Well, it is to a certain extent. With the exception of the fact that it features a female action lead, “Haywire” certainly isn’t out to blaze any new trails.

What it does do is feature first class directing, an excellent cast from top to bottom, and incredible fight sequences. This movie could wind up being the debutant party for future action heroine Gina Carano.

I wont spend much time encapsulating the plot of “Haywire”. You’ve seen it, you know it. Secret agent goes on a mission, and before you know it, they’re being set up and framed for some act of treason, and we’re off to the races.

It’s been done a thousand times, but that never even bothered me.

From the opening scene, Soderbergh sets a fantastic pace and tone. This is an action movie, staring a star who can FIGHT. And Soderbergh is a sharp enough guy to fully take advantage of that. So within five minutes of the curtain going up, Carano is in the kind of fight scene you have to see to believe. Full out fighting and punching each other, take downs and struggling to get each other in submission holds. I had the pleasure of attending this panel at last years Comic-Con, and the fight scenes were front and center in the discussions. Carano is a Mixed Martial Artist. So… they really hit her. And… she really hit back. Lots of injuries were reported. :D

But the action of the film goes beyond the hand to hand fight scenes. There aren’t any MI:4 type set pieces or anything, but Soderbergh keeps the movie clipping at a pace that everything feels action oriented, even phone conversations. There’s some short but sweet car chases, a quick shoot out or two, but most of all Soderbergh keeps the pacing brisk, the editing tight, and the dialogue sparse. He sets it all to a propulsive funk/pop score and we’re off to the races.

Carano herself is laudable. Is she a great actress? Hell no. But neither were any number of male action stars you can name. She more than held her own, and due to the fact she’s the one throwing down, you wind up invested in her. She wows you with her fighting, looks great and doesn’t get in her own way by exposing any shortcomings she may have as an actress. Of course, having a director like Soderbergh helps. He’s not going to hang her out to dry. He protects her and makes her look good. At the end of the day, I was hoping I’d see more of her, as this is a very good martial arts action movie.

It helps that she has a LOADED supporting cast. Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, and Ewan McGregor all play key roles. This isn’t going to rank in any of their top five roles or anything, but they’re all high calibre talent, and stocking the movie across the board with actors of note and skill lends the movie an added degree of credibility.

It all adds up to a very entertaining movie experience. It’s well-directed, has a boatload of famous actors, a breakout introduction of a female action lead, and some of the best fight scenes in recent memory, maybe even ever. I’d listen to someone if they made that argument. There wasn’t a lot of meat on its bones otherwise, so I can’t give it an A range grade, let’s just say it’s an enthusiastic -

B+

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32 thoughts on “Haywire

  1. This has looked like it’s a lot of fun, and I’m glad to be seeing reviews that say it really is. Like you, I’m not particularly concerned that the plot is a rehash — hell, “spy done wrong” is verging on its own genre at this point. What matters is whether or not it’s done well. Sounds like it is, and that Carano can at least act enough for an action movie. Hopefully she gets a few more under her belt before she starts going the Ah-nold route and giving us poorly-acted kiddie comedies like so many action stars do.

    • ” “spy done wrong” is verging on its own genre at this point.”

      Absolutely is.

      And LOL, lets not get ahead of ourselves on Carano. You crack me up though, that’s a funny thought. She just jumps to a nanny movie next without establishing herself as an action star first, so there’s no playing against type humor? Thats funny…

      • Well done, K2. :D

        I know, it’s jumping ahead quite a bit, but it is kind of amusing how all the action stars — the ones who are just “action stars” and not really known for other acting — wind up doing kid comedies when they start aging a bit. Arnold’s most prominent, because he tried so many (and not just kid ones), but I think they all do. Vin Diesel, “The Pacifier”; Dwayne Johnson, “The Tooth Fairy”….

      • They all follow the trail blazed by Ahnuld.

        He set the blueprint.

        I mean, they’re not going to sell tickets doing Shakespeare, you know?

        And I’d watch “Nanny McPhee 3: The Submission Hold”, you know I would.

  2. Thanks for the review. I was hoping for one…not like you couldn’t tell. LOL. I’m glad to know what I’m walking into. I can’t wait to watch the fight scenes. It’s going to be epic, but I won’t expect much on the acting front.

    • I did, actually, yeah. I was relieved when I realized it was really good, I was like, cool, Jen’s gonna be happy. :D

      You know? It’s not even so much the acting… (Although Carano’s got some limits, I’m sure) it’s just that no one is really given a lot of challenges. It’s a straight up chase/fight film.

      But it knows what it is, does it well, and doesnt try to be anything more. You’re gonna like it. Be sure to swing back and let us know what you thought after you see it!

  3. Really enjoyed this movie just for the entertainment alone, as you noted. I always wanted to get into a good fist fight but was afraid, and was able to ” live it” through Carano. Good review.

  4. I’m intrigued by this movie, mainly because critics and movie writers seem to like it well enough while audiences seem to hate it. The movie got a “D-” CinemaScore this past weekend from exit polls which is nothing short of dismal.

    • For real? That’s abysmal! Maybe they heard all the cirtics playing it up and build up their expectations… Maybe they expected MI;4. I dont know. I liked it, Andy over at ACVF really liked it…. It was good, man.

  5. Lol…u seriously liked this movie waaaaaayyy more than I did. The action/fighting scenes were great, but anything outside of that failed miserably. That had to have been one of the worst directed movies I have seen in a while. The corniness was never ending with the face paint, cliche dialogue, and why the hell did they have a shot of Ewan McGregors charater hiding out outside the house…smh…horrible. And don’t get me started on that 70’s porn musical soundtrack they used. I think you actually have to be a fan of this type of BS to actually like it. Unfortunately, I was not a fan, and if I never see Carano in another movie, it will be too soon…lol. Check out my thoughts on it when u get a chance.

    • Those weren’t your thoughts you just posted above? LOL

      Shocking critic/audience disconnect on this one. 80 something on Rotten Tomatoes last I checked, yet Cinema Score was a D- which is TERRIBLE considering the Cinema Score skews high.

      • Im not surprised with the critic/audience difference. I don’t think critics focus on viewer audience appeal. As far a Rotten Tomatoes Im hoping that 80 something is Rotten and not Fresh…lol…smh

      • No, Its fresh.

        And I know for myself, I always think about the people in the seats and how they’ll enjoy it. I never treat movies as if they’re film school projects and I’m the teacher. My grade and review is always an attempt to express to my visitors how much I think they’ll enjoy a movie. Based on my personal thoughts and feelings, which is all I have.

        I think this was a very enjoyable flick. A couple of other people I know feel the same. Including Andy Crump over at A Constant Visual Feast… he’s a fellow blogger and a visitor here, I respect his views highly… give his review a look if you get a chance… Consider it me calling in reinforcements. LOL.

        http://agcrump.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/review-haywire-2012-dir-steven-soderbergh/

        Its a tricky thing Taj. You cant see eye to eye with everyone, even if you tried.

      • I totally agree with you, and go about my reviews in the same manner. I review from the perspective of the viewer audience, of course including my own personal opinions. When I sit in the theatre I am alos looking at the audience reactions to the film. When I went to see Haywire, which was almost sold out, the audience seemed to share the same view I did. When u see people leaning over taking naps, or walking out, thats not really a good sign. Of course we can’t all agree, but I will stand behind my views as well as take into account of others. I will check out ur friends blog, although reinforcements won’t change MY opinion of this film…lol ;)

      • Also on another note if it is as good as YOU think it is, and ur audience thinks it is, then its box office numbers should increase, from word of mouth views as with other underrated films. It did terribly its 1st week out, and im honestly not expecting it to make it in to the top 10 next week. But we shall see! :)

      • We’d like to THINK that was the case – that good movies always meet with success at the box office, etc.

        But I’m sure we can all name any number of movies that are sub-par that performed very well at the gate, and conversly, plenty of examples of notable “flops” that are actually good.

        The most recent example I can think of is “Drive” which was an AWESOME movie, but barely performed at the gate at all.

        So sure, that’s a “card for you to play”. But its not a clincher by any means.

      • I think you missed my point. I know it didnt perform well out of the gate, but if its as good as u think and ur audience thinks, then it should gain momentum by word of mouth. For example movies like “300” & “Taken” were sleepers, but gain ticket & video sale momentum.

        As far as ur opinion of Drive, I wasn’t a fan of that movie either. This is also a movie that rides the fence with viewers. There is a 50/50 chance that a viewer loved it, or hated it. You thought it was great, and I respect that. It didn’t perform well at the box office, maybe it will fair better as a rental since it was “so great”…we shall see! :)

      • I think most critics nowadays do consider the appeal to the audience. Siskel & Ebert really went a long way towards establishing the precedent of rating movies based on what they’re trying to be, rather than being art house snobs. There are some exceptions, but most noted critics are genuinely trying to evaluate how well they think people will like a film.

        Now, to be perfectly honest, when there is a disconnect, it usually is of the variety where the critics are being snootier than the audience (in the case of “low-brow” films) or of appreciating aspects that the audience doesn’t care about (in the case of “high-brow” films). But that can’t really be applied here, can it? Whatever else you can say about Haywire, it’s not an art house film. It’s precisely the kind of film, in fact, where we would expect the audience to like it better than the critics. Virtually all action films do a little better from the audience than from the critics. So this particular disconnect is very interesting; it’s a strong reversal from what would be expected.

      • I think, actually a lot of that can be applied here, yeah. Its a bit of an art house action film. LOL.

        Not 100%, but the things you said in that regard would apply. There are things at work that perhaps the general audience wouldnt appreciate. The originality of the fight sequences, perhaps, definitely some of the directorial things you can see…

        I think there’s at least some of that factoring in.

        Let’s say this. There’s been PLENTY of “Oh Shit” moments where I put a review out and then see the cirtical or audience consensus and hope no one sees my grade. LOL. This isnt one of them, I feel good about my stance here. Pretty solid, gonna stand my ground.

        That is certainly not ALWAYS the case. :D Let’s not look too hard for examples, shall we?

  6. Definitely the first movie outside of a film festival that I’ve seen people walk out of…and I’m not quite sure why. I really liked it.

    It’s not often you see such visceral and seemingly real fight choreography. Somewhat cheesy plot, and a mediocre non-fight performance from Carano aside, it’s undeniably a very good film. The reasons for which “general audiences” seem to dislike the film are beyond my comprehension.

    Also, holy crap is there anything Michael Fassbender can’t do? I think the “smarmy, super-posh Brit” is my favourite Fassbender, I don’t think he unclenched his teeth and released that goofy grin once throughout the entirety of his role in the film :P.

  7. It’s been done a thousand times, but that never even bothered me.

    There’s an argument that there are only a handful of stories that have ever been told, and every film, novel, play, etc is just another iteration of one of those stories. I think the idea of something being “done before” certainly works as a criticism, but as you highlight here, it doesn’t really apply to a film like Haywire that’s treated with the kind of craftsmanship Soderbergh displays.

    It’s a tight film. While Soderbergh does his usual non-linear thing, hopping around time and space like Scott Bakula, the film makes sense– which it should, since he’s an expert on that narrative technique at this point. Everything gels together logically. The only time the film feels loose is after Soderbergh catches us up to the present, and Carano and Angarano get in a car chase and smash a deer. But that slackness lasts only for so long.

    Like you, I think Carano’s great here. No one expects an action star to really act, and for the most part what she does is in-line with the works of the Schwarzeneggers and the Seagals of the world. Frankly, I think she’s actually better. It’s not amazing stuff, but she does a lot with her eyes and with expression that helps make Kane into a better-realized character. And she knows how to kick ass with more proficiency than even the best male action stars of the 80s.

    It’s weird. Usually, the male action star, a non-actor, is surrounded by even more non-actorly people. Here, Carano’s supported by a cast of veteran, proven performers, and I think the fear is that they’ll outshine her. But they act like stunt doubles and do everything they can to make her look good (while looking good in the process themselves). McGregor in particular is great, but I think Banderas steals the whole movie with his final line.

    • We completely see eye to eye on this on man (always nice).

      I cannot for the life of me figure out the public disconnect. There’s no way around it Andy, this movie was resoundingly rejected by the masses. Small take, crappy cinema score…

      I mean, results like that could lead to this being Carano’s one and only flick. Not that’s justice… But it’s how it all works :(

  8. This, despite my disagreement, is a fantastic review. I liked the point you brought up about male action stars that didn’t really act too well either.

    I am glad you liked the film. I truly wish I could’ve liked it more. Carano was great to watch and look at!

    Nice review Dan.

  9. I was so sure I commented on this! Ah well, here I go.

    I wasn’t all that entertained. Not as much as you. It was a fine film, but I just didn’t feel invested in it. The plot or the characters. I didn’t care. Sure the fight scenes were amazingly real and epicly hurty, it looked great too. Gina wasn’t awful either. Hugely brilliant male supporting actors.

    I just felt nothing for the lead character or her plight.

    • You know? You hold the high ground on this one… people did not connect whatsoever with it. It pretty much failed to connect entirely except for critics. (Batting 80% on Rotten Tomatoes…)

      I’m not too attached to it to want to sway anyone’s opinions on it, so… ::shrugs::

      We’ll agree again next time :)

  10. Pingback: LAMBScores: Haywire, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Red Tails and Underworld: Awakening | Ada Gratis Two

  11. Caught this on DVD and enjoyed it but miffed at my emotional detachment to main character. Perhaps if there was more at the start of the movie to care about the protagonist, I would be more invested. I thought the action was great; fight choreograph and wider camera angles to get all the action was strong. Male leads had heavy hitters too, and I even enjoyed the flashbacks in story. This is along the lines of Salt with Jolie though I felt Salt had more character backstory. I wonder how much time is enough in a movie to get the audience invested in characters prior to bulk of action or major events? Is it 15 minutes- 20? I really can’t say. Again, enjoyable just not as invested as I wanted to be.

    • Yeah, strangely enough I just talked about it on that guest podcast I posted about this morning. I think part of it is Carano… she’s servicable, and great in the action, but I dont think she’s gonna get another shot at being a movie star. I dont know.

      There are definitely script issues though, as you point out. That plot is flat out generic. LOL

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