Haywire Review

(2.5 STARS)

If the ultimate point of Haywire, the latest film from famously eclectic director Steven Soderbergh, is to show off the ass-kicking skills of the film’s star (MMA fighter Gina Carano), it’s a rousing success. Carano’s fight scenes are surprising, innovative, and spectacular, but the film in which they live is a limp noodle.

The problem is Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs don’t give much context to what’s going on. Who is this woman? Why should we care about her about her plight? Though the film’s 90-minute running time is appreciated, an extra scene or two could have developed Carano’s Mallory Kane into someone more relatable and made the story’s resolution more satisfying. As it is, Haywire is far too cold to completely envelop you.

The film opens in frigid upstate New York where Kane settles into a diner for a cup of coffee before an acquaintance of hers, Aaron (Channing Tatum), surprises and attempts to kill her. She breaks his arm and escapes with an unsuspecting young man (Michael Angarano). While en route to a safe place, Kane shares with this man her story over the last couple weeks, which sent her from Barcelona to San Diego, Dublin, and New York and pit her against some of the most dangerous assassins in the world.

Mallory’s situation seems dire, but she is consistently underestimated and always manages to take advantage of her surroundings to knock out her enemies—Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and others. The fight scenes are intense—especially the one with Fassbender—and they’re executed in a way that reminded me a lot of Sleepless Night. There’s definitely some Bourne in there too, if that’s a more familiar reference, but the fact that Carano does these fights herself is admirable, and the creativity that went into choreographing them deserves to be commended.

Beyond that, there’s not much in Haywire that’s noteworthy. The performances are pretty bland, and the jazzy score (by David Holmes) feels very out of place. Soderbergh’s style, usually so on point, misses the mark in a big way. The shot selection is a little bizarre, and his usual desaturated palette gives the film a glossy, generic kind of look.

If these “one man (or woman) vs. the world” movies weren’t a dime a dozen nowadays, Haywire might feel novel. But they are, and it doesn’t. It’s Soderbergh’s blandest effort in quite some time and perhaps a signal that he, like Woody Allen, should just slow down.

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