Haywire’s a Misfire

Haywire’s protagonist, Mallory Kane, played by statuesque Mixed Martial Artist brawler Gina Carano, looks a lot like a younger version of America’s undisputed girl next door, Sandra Bullock.  Too bad in her leading “lady” debut, she has all the charm of the door.  Not that any of this will matter to moviegoers not burned out by the “burned spy out for revenge” genre.

Here’s the best screenwriter Lem Dobbs could come up with: The best secret agent in the world, this time a private sector contractor, is framed for murder and must trek across Europe and the U.S., from Barcelona to New Mexico, to clear her name and get back at those who wronged her.  These dastardly gents include Channing Tatum –taking a break from his side gig as a Hollister mannequin – as douche bag spy Aaron, horribly underutilized Michael Fassbender as MI-6 operative Paul, Ewan McGregor collecting a paycheck as Mallory’s sleezy boss/ex-boyfriend Kenneth, and Antonio Banderas as Sadaam Hussein pretending to be a Latin American politician (that’s the only plausible excuse for his beard).

It is essentially Kill Bill if Quentin Tarantino had no imagination or respect for his audience.  The reason for the company betraying Mallory gets lost in all the flashbacks and locale changes.  And if you really want the best spy in the world dead or captured, try a more subtle tactic than hand-to-hand combat.  Furthermore, if hand-to-hand combat doesn’t work after four tries, maybe try a new approach.

That’s not to say the movie is all bad.  Despite wooden acting and a plot thinner than the paper it’s printed on, the brisk action flick remains engaging throughout because of all those gritty, teeth-rattling throw downs between sexy super spy Mallory and her former colleagues.

Round One begins at a cozy upstate New York diner.  Mallory’s opponent is Aaron.  He’s supposed to bring her back to Spies R’ Us headquarters, even though later we find out through flashbacks her bosses tried to have her killed a few days prior.  He should have just said, “Come with me if you want to die.”  Of course she refuses his offer, allowing Carano and Tatum to show off their admittedly impressive fighting skills.  One can only hope Christopher Nolan’s fight scenes are half as engaging in The Dark Knight Rises.  Director Stephen Soderbergh wisely sticks with tight medium shots putting the audience right in the action, never averting the camera even as Aaron pounds his fists into Mallory’s pretty mug.  Needing no stand in, Carano takes every intensely believable body slam and elbow herself.  She also expertly delivers her own counter attacks, such as a socket-wrenching armbar. I t’s like she never left the octagon.  At least Soderbergh plays to his actors’ strengths.  Visceral brutality will always overcome even the most vapid plot for the first few weeks at the box office.

You would expect the guy who directed Ocean’s 11 to inject some fun and wit into the action spy genre.  Soderbergh had a good enough cast, even with Carano’s inability to emote anything other than aloof bitch.  She found some honest, comical moments with the kid she carjacked, Scott (Sky High’sMichael Angarano).  If their escape from law enforcement and super soldiers had been the focus of the movie, Haywire could have been a prefect late summer blockbuster.  Instead it languishes in January, Hollywood’s Island of Misfit Movies.

The biggest problem is that every piece of dialogue exists only to advance Mallory to her next fight.  The moments with her Tom Clancy-esque father, played by Bill Paxton, had all the dramatic weight of a CSI:Miami episode in which David Caruso had been lobotomized.  Carano’s smoky, monotone inflection, by the way, was created in post-production to make her sound more intimidating.  So essentially she’s the exact opposite of Andy Serkis.

The only real reason to check this out in the theaters is the fighting.  Otherwise, wait two months until it comes out on Blu-ray.  In the meantime, you might as well play Mortal Kombat while listening to jazz funk, which permeates the soundtrack as nauseum.  Soderbergh’s music choice might be his clever way of showing how hip and different his movies are.  They usually look great, sound pretentious and feel hollow.  It’s exactly what you’d expect from the guy who directed Ocean’s 12 and 13.




2 Responses to “Haywire’s a Misfire”

  1. Brian White

    I waited until this review posted today before I left a comment about this film because I identify more with John’s review above than I do Aaron’s review here: http://whysoblu.com/haywire-movie-review/. I feel like John and I saw the same movie. I NEVER do this, but i know confidently without a doubt that my past 2 full-length movie scripts are superior and triumphant celebrations over this January trash. UGH! This movie made me want to stay home from the theaters until May. I woke up so pissed off the next day at how bad this is and how gaping wide open the plot holes are. It’s like watching the tail end of Rodriguez’s Desperado replayed throughout the film over and over again. What happens? How did she know to come here? Really in the end…Who cares?!

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    It’s like we watched different cuts of the same movie. I had lots of fun, found a fair amount of wit in the flick, and really dug Carano. Although your final score for the flick seems to reflect more positively than your seemingly harsh words. It’s not aspiring for greatness, but I dug it.