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Worth A Look: 26.67%
Just Average: 6.67%
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4 reviews, 6 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"Not just a nifty action showcase."
5 stars

One might think, based on the casting of a mixed-martial arts fighter in the lead role, that "Haywire" would be a non-stop action showcase, one more piece of evidence that director Steven Soderbergh can make any genre his own. That it's not the sort of melee-based movie that one would normally see out of Hong Kong or Thailand is initially a bit disappointing, at least until the viewer realizes that it's Soderbergh doing what he does best - with additional ass-kicking.

We start with private security operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) sitting in a diner in upstate New York, waiting for a contact who finally comes in the form of her colleague Aaron (Channing Tatum). He, naturally, is planning to double-cross her, but she's ready, escaping with young hostage Scott (Michael Angarano). It's not the typical hostage/captor relationship, though, as she spills every detail about her mission in Barcelona with Aaron at the behest of State Department officials Coblenz (Michael Douglas) and Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), how her employer and former lover Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) pulled her in to one more mission in Dublin with Paul (Michael Fassbender), and how that led to her stealing his car and having him patch up her arm while she tries to make her way to her father (Bill Paxton).

Soderbergh has made a lot of movies in his career, from tiny indies to big studio productions, and across all genres, but the thread that has run through most of them in one for or another - and been particularly prominent in some of his recent work - is the idea of a sort of observational drama. Haywire, like Contagion, The Girlfriend Experience, and some of his other films, has him standing back and matching his characters' cool professionalism rather than poking at them to figure out what makes them tick emotionally. It can make for dry-seeming movies unless you find process as fascinating as Soderbergh seems to, but the attentive viewer will surely be rewarded. For Haywire, that means showing the audience what may seem inconsequential details like Coblenz and Kenneth negotiating the contract for the Barcelona job, or the agents doing the sort of set-up that would be quick-cut flashbacks in other action movies. One has to watch closely and give special attention to looks that linger for a second extra or twitches at the corner of the mouth.

Somewhat paradoxically, relying on those small things allows Soderbergh to get the most out of Carano, who is unquestionably a striking screen presence but unproven as an actress. Her job is to paint Mallory as a capable professional, which is well within her range. Give credit where it's due - there's personality there as well as competence, and she doesn't wilt when placed side-by-side with any members of the packed cast she's a part of; MacGregor, Fassbender, Banderas, Paxton, Douglas, et al., are their usual fine selves, and Carano doesn't seem to be punching out of her league when playing alongside them. And while they do all right in selling action scenes, it's pretty clear that this is what Carano does for a living.

That said, it's not just her knowing how to throw a punch and roll with the hits that makes the action in Haywire some of the best an American movie has done in a while. Soderbergh shoots so that the audience can see exactly what's going on, and Carano's MMA background means that it's often hands-on grappling instead of swings that may not connect. He does a lot of things to make everything just a little more fun, though - several shots will have Mallory pop up in the background, creating giddy anticipation at the inevitable beatdown to come. And a rooftop chase scene in Dublin becomes one of the best of the type because Soderbergh and Carano let us see Mallory's limits. It's amazing what a couple seconds scanning the area to see which direction to leap or pausing because that sort of drop knocks the wind out of a person can do to add tension to a sequence.

It's not just action; the script by Lem Dobbs is nicely serpentine, and Soderbergh's direction and cinematography gives the picture a nice throwback-to-the-seventies atmosphere. That's what makes the movie something special - it's a well-done thriller by a guy who knows his stuff AND a showcase for a lady who knows her action.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21888&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/29/12 15:14:10
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User Comments

1/07/13 KingNeutron A bit hard to follow, 4 for the film and 5 for Gina - looking fwd to more from her! 5 stars
6/03/12 mr.mike Not a grand slam but it grows on you. 4 stars
5/05/12 The Taitor A good to decent action movie esp. for Carano 1st movie, prob. won't buy/would watch again 4 stars
4/28/12 action movie fan good cast and fight scenes but needs more 3 stars
1/24/12 Devin Sabas I loved this kick-ass action movie. it had the heart of those spy/action movies of the 60's 5 stars
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  20-Jan-2012 (R)
  DVD: 01-May-2012


  DVD: 01-May-2012

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