It’s feels like forever since I’ve seen a smart action suspense flick. You just don’t get a lot of movies like Sneakers or Heat, especially in today’s market where the big draws are the beefcake like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Vin Diesel.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy testosterone-y movies as much as the next nerdy dork with no measurable upper body strength (sometimes even more than most as in the case of DOOM), but the films that I watch over and over again are ones like Ronin that require you to pay attention.
Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire does just that.
The first scene of the movie isn’t the beginning of the story. Most of the first part of the film is told in flashback form, so you’ve got to sit up and make an effort to understand what the fuck is happening? That initial disorientation serves as a great way to tell you what to expect of the rest of the movie as the protagonist fights to find out who’s behind the plot to frame her for a murder.
Mallory (Gina Carano) is a former marine turned mercenary, who is working for a paramilitary group that contracts its services to the highest bidder. After completing a rescue mission in Barcelona, Mallory finds herself in deep shit and on the run from her employer, law enforcement, and the government, not to mention the criminals that were behind the kidnapping.
While Carano’s performance isn’t exactly Oscar worthy, she does excel in other areas: i.e. she kicks ass. Holy shit, does she kick ass. Being a former mixed martial arts fighter, this probably isn’t surprising, but it does mean that the beautifully shot fight scenes are extra brutal. You see Carano being punched, kicked, and thrown into walls, off buildings, into windows, floors, and TV sets, all in a kind of documentary style that uses a lot of hand held.
Unlike movies like Bourne Identity however, Soderbergh seems to have a spatial awareness to his movie making that keeps the moviegoer with him, even if his principle actress is running over the rooftops of Dublin. That clarity really helps with the fight scenes as well since you can see the progression of each punch, kick, and choke hold. It works even better than Guy Ritchie’s predictive boxing in Sherlock Holmes.
Technically, I really love Soderbergh’s work. He sometimes works as his own cinematographer (as he did here under the pseudonym Peter Andrews) and he’s just got great eye. There’s a great hero shot of Carano near the end where she’s silhouetted against the sky that just makes me think “Damn it, Hollywood! Wonder Woman!”
Because of Carano’s obvious onscreen charisma, you can’t deny that this is a vehicle for her. That’s not to say thought that the filmmakers neglected the other roles. The supporting cast is… well, I believe “stellar” would be a good word. Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, and Channing Tatum (Tatum feels a little out of place to me, but he didn't have that big a part anyhow) all show up to help flesh out the plot of the movie. With the exception of Paxton, they all look like they had a hell of a time playing the bad guy in this one.
In the end, the movie isn’t the best representative of the action genre (it actually feels closer to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven, a caper flick complete with the jazzy music). In hindsight, it’s little wonder that there are so few screens showing it here in Metro Manila. In my area, only 2 of the 4 malls have it, and only on 1 screen each. The last Twilight film opened on every single one of those screens.
Do me a favor and give Haywire the same chance Breaking Dawn had. Tell Hollywood (and the local movie industry) that there is an audience for movies like this. Go out and see it now.