by Ryan Hill
Steven Soderbergh is one of the rare A-list directors who’s mixed studio hits like the “Ocean’s” trilogy and “Contagion” with edgier, independent fare like “Che” and “The Girlfriend Experience.” As if it isn’t difficult enough to pull off an independent film, Soderbergh loves to add to the challenge by casting non-actors in leading roles. “Haywire” is no exception.
Starring Mixed Martial Arts fighter Gina Carano, “Haywire” is a bare-bones action film about a double-crossed spy out for revenge against everyone who tried to kill her. Carano, whose background is perfectly suited for the fight scenes, is not the greatest actress in the world. However, the daring choice to craft the film around Carano pays off in spades during the fight scenes.
Harkening back to a time when actors fought each other without relying on editing, the action is so old school it’s new again, giving the film some of the best fight scenes in years. The fight between Carano and Michael Fassbender that’s teased in the trailer is one of the most ridiculous and entertaining brawls ever filmed, with every “Did you see that?” moment topped before you can finish the sentence.
Of course, the drawback of casting Carano is the plot had to be stripped down to the barest essentials to try and hide deficiencies in her acting. Soderbergh does his best to make this a non-issue with a terrific supporting cast, including Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Channing Tatum, ensuring almost half of Carano’s screen time features her either running or fighting.
Even with the supporting cast doing most the heavy lifting, the plot is so paper thin and predictable that the film becomes almost entirely about the fight scenes simply because there isn’t anything else going on.
The best that can be said about Carano’s acting is it isn’t so bad that it distracts from the rest of the movie. Carano’s character Mallory is the best action heroine since Uma Thurman sliced her way to bloody satisfaction in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” films. One of the great things about “Haywire” is all of the men in the film, with the exception of Paxton as Mallory’s father, are scared to death of her, a welcome change from the predominantly male-driven action genre.
“Haywire” may not stand alongside other Soderbergh gems such as “Traffic” and “Out of Sight,” but it’s pure popcorn entertainment along the lines of his “Ocean’s” films, and the fights alone are worth the price of admission.
Grade: 3 out of 4
MPAA Rating: R for some violence
Cast: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender
Studio: Relativity Media