Haywire (2012)

18 January 2012

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Stephen Soderbergh directs an all star cast in action thriller HAYWIRE, including mixed martial arts supremo Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, a highly-trained black ops specialist, contracted for hazardous covert missions by the US Government. When her paymaster’s point-man (Ewan McGregor) teams her with fellow agent (Channing Tatum) to extract a Chinese journalist held hostage in a Barcelona safe house, the mission swiftly unravels and she barely escapes with her life.  During her next assignment in Dublin, with Irish assassin Paul (Michael Fassbender) Mallory is violently betrayed and pursued across the city by the local police and assorted ruthless hitmen.

Now the target of an international manhunt, spearheaded by the CIA official who hired her (Michael Douglas), Mallory realises she can trust no one and is forced to flee across the US from upstate New York to the New Mexico desert.  There, she seeks refuge in the home of her ex-soldier father (Bill Paxton), but danger is not far behind her. As she confronts her heavily-armed pursuers, she begins to understand the cause of her betrayal, and the part played by a shadowy Spanish official (Antonio Banderas). Battling with her superiors to uncover the truth behind their deception, she sets out to exact revenge on those that want her dead.

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"The plot is trivial and unnecessary, and the overall story fails to truly achieve anything significant..."

It would appear that there is a growing trend amongst Hollywood film-makers to produce big action thrillers featuring a female as the lead protagonist. Fairly recently released features such as Salt and Kill Bill have proved a relative success in such a field, and Steven Soderbergh will be hoping his latest feature Haywire will emulate such films.

Gina Carano plays Mallory, a private freelance operative, sent on a mission to Barcelona to rescue a hostage alongside colleague Aaron (Channing Tatum). Thanks to fulfilling the task ahead, Mallory's partner and supervisor Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) sends the contentious agent to Dublin to work alongside undercover agent Paul (Michael Fassbender), yet Mallory soon discovers that the operation is askew, and begins to question whether her professional position, and overall safety, are both in danger.

Mallory soon discovers that her suspicions are justified, as Paul attempts to stab Mallory behind her back. Using her brute strength and agility, mixed with an intelligent eye, she must first escape Paul, before securing the safety of her father (Bill Paxton) and taking revenge on every last one of those who betrayed her.

Despite bearing a somewhat quintessential action thriller storyline, Soderbergh has made a clear attempt at trying something original and unique, although whether such an effort has proved successful remains to be seen. Soderbergh has attempted a more European art house take on the formulaic Hollywood thriller. At specific points it works well, with a variety of intriguing camera angles and shots, with a few situations and characters presented via reflections. The fighting scenes are mostly shot without music, leaving just the heavy sound of physical fighting to make up the ambiance of the scene. However, despite the genuine attempt to try something a bit different, Haywire ends up being just like any other generic Hollywood action movie, surrendering to the conventionalisms of the genre.

What does stand out however, is the impressive performance by leading role Carano. At points her inexperience does prove evident, but she carries a believability that suits the nature of the role, as you never once doubt her ability to beat the living daylights out of anyone who stands in her way, although in fairness, she was once a Gladiator on American television.

But despite playing the role of Mallory with an impressive degree of confidence and brutishness, such personality traits disallow an emotional attachment to be formed between the character and the viewer. Not once does she reveal or display a weakness or vulnerability, which although heightening the effect of the character, deems the life-threatening predicament she is in inconsequential and difficult to relate to and care about. Soderbergh relies too heavily on the novelty of the powerful and combative female lead, ignoring the emotive aspects to the role and therefore film.

There are, however, glimpses of Haywire being a stand-out production, with the occasional gripping sequence, most notable in the section of the film where Mallory suspects her colleagues are betraying her trust. This is especially apparent in the enjoyable fighting sequence with Fassbender, a great display of Carano's physical prowess. There is also a highly suspenseful scene where Mallory is paranoid that she is being followed. Shot mostly in close-up, it bears an intensity as the audience are equally as unaware of whether her suspicions are correct, and similarly to Mallory, the audience are also trying to work out who may be on her tail.

Unfortunately such scenes are few and far between, ultimately deeming Haywire a quite dull and seemingly irrelevant feature film. The performances from the cast, also boasting stars such as Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, are strong, as the key misgivings lie more in the uninspiring script and the story presented. Soderbergh certainly brings his own ideas to the film, but one must question why he chose to take the project on.

The plot is trivial and unnecessary, and the overall story fails to truly achieve anything significant, feeling as though almost stumbling into a sequel given the lack of background knowledge to the plot. Soderbergh attempts to be slick and cool, carrying on from his previous features such as Ocean's Eleven and Traffic, yet the feature feels more like Goon, simply a portrayal of meaningless violence, with much unexplained fighting and a host of random bruised bodies scattered around the place.

Coming off the back of a producing role on the fantastic We Need to Talk About Kevin, Soderbergh has since announced his impending retirement from film-making, claiming his next two projects will be his last. However, if the Oscar-winning director wishes to leave the industry on a high note, he needs to ensure his next two films are of a higher standard than this particular offering.

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