Heist film trilogy. Film noir genre exercise. Apocalyptic thriller. Balls out action film.
These are just a few of the cinematic faces of cinema’s, Harvey Dent, shall we say, Steven Soderbergh. With his latest, his attempt at a ‘˜Jason Bourne’-type bit of world romping action filmmaking, ‘˜Haywire,’ officially now in theaters, the arthouse darling with the franchise credibility finally has an excuse to give us his take on the modern action film. And here’s to hoping it’s not the last time, because not since ‘˜Traffic’ has mister ‘˜Schizopolis’ been this damn good.
‘˜Haywire,’ for all intents and purposes, has a rather simplistic plot. We meet Mallory Kane in a restaurant in a random Podunk town, only to discover, through at first a montage, that this woman is not only dangerously stunning, but has the ability to rip a man’s face directly off his body with a simple glance. I may be fudging that fact just a little bit, but it gets the point that she is a highly trained, former Marine, life taker across rather well. She discovers that she has been double crossed by her ’employer,’ and decides to take her angst out on anyone and everyone who gets in her way, all whilst jumping from beautiful location to beautiful location. And yet, a film hasn’t been this thrilling since the last ‘˜Bourne’ film, or, to a lesser extent, ‘˜Crank’ and ‘˜Crank 2.’
Starring MMA star-turned-actress Gina Carano, the film features a who’s who of brilliant thespians. Carano, however, steals the show. Giving a realism to the viscerally choreographed fights that we haven’t seen in quite some time, and pairing that with this sense of slight innocence and pure beauty, Carano is a star in the making. She plays the character, one that in other hands would have been all brawn and no brains, with a great truth and naturalism, that this just feels like another day at the office for Carano, and/or Mallory.
The supporting cast is equally as great, but what else would you expect with this team. Ewan McGregor plays Kenneth, the man who went from, what one can only assume as a former lover to her current boss, and is just as slimy and manipulative as one would hope. Michael Douglas isn’t asked to do much, but what he does do is play his ‘˜Traffic’ style politician with an ease that is utterly mind blowing. Antonio Banderas stars as the film’s main baddie, and seems to exude slime right the hell out of his pores, chewing up every last bit of scenery he can get his hands on. Hell, Soderbergh even gets a career-best performance out of what we all once assumed to be just a plank of wood, but we now know to be an actor named Channing Tatum. Rounding out the cast are Michael Angarano, Bill Paxton, and yes, Michael Fassbender, making his four-billionth appearance on screen in the last 365 days.
However, the big star here is Soderbergh. While it seems like he’d take this project like he asks his character to take a new job (as a ‘paid holiday’) given the amazing locales, Soderbergh seems to give his absolute all with this project. He doesn’t shy away or cut away from the brilliantly choreographed fight sequences here, often times showing us just how brutal a fight within an enclosed space would truly be. Very much an ‘American’ action film, in that the fight sequences are massively kinetic, lacking the poetic beauty of a martial arts picture, Soderbergh’s stylistic cues fit this project like a glove. He has a low down and dirty style, bringing a sense of visceral beauty to a film that makes the audience feel like they themselves are getting bashed in the skull with a vase. It should come as no shock that Soderbergh originally intended to shoot some of the film in IMAX, as the piece is wonderfully framed and edited, allowing the brutality and beauty to mesh together making one hell of a film.
While the film itself feels a bit incomplete (the final shot, while really great, does leave the narrative wide open, giving the viewer hope for a sequel, which would be really welcome here), and far too short, the film is from top to bottom a knockout. From Soderbergh’s top-tier action filmmaking, to the star making turn from Gina Carano, all the way down to David Holmes’ masterpiece of a score, ‘˜Haywire’ is one of the best action pictures you’ll see. Save for a few tiny quibbles, ‘˜Haywire’ is an action film that should be seen by the masses, as it’s an action film that will leave each person breathless, as if you just got punched in the mouth by the woman of your dream.