24 January 2012


Gina Carano and Ewan McGregor are shown in a scene from "Haywire."
Action film, spy movie, revenge picture—any way you slice it, the nuts and bolts of “Haywire” have been done to death. But never before by maverick filmmaker Steven Soderbergh.

In his hands, the movie becomes a bit of a puzzle, with cross-cut flashbacks, occasional shots of black and white, and an array of unconventional camera angles.

To top it off, Soderbergh and his screenwriter, Lem Dobbs (who also wrote Soderbergh's “Kafka” and “The Limey”), developed the movie around a performer with virtually no acting experience, former mixed martial arts star Gina Carano.

They tailored the script to her strengths, resulting in a terse heroine of the Jason Bourne variety and a narrative that, despite everything Soderbergh pulls from his bag of directorial tricks, is based on a handful of visceral hand-to-hand combat scenes.

The approach to the action is novel in this age of shaky, handheld cameras and furious cutting. Soderbergh, who acts as his own cinematographer and camera operator, shoots the fights in either static or tracking shots, often at a wide angle and with relatively long takes. He cast Carano for her physical abilities, and he truly captures her skills with his camera. You wouldn't cobble together a single line reading by Meryl Streep from multiple takes, so why would you want to show Carano in action a second or fractions of a second at a time?

Soderbergh heightens the intensity by dropping David Holmes' bouncy musical score during the action scenes, leaving us only with the natural sounds of the fights [-] a fist smashing a face, a back slamming into a wall.

When it's time for Carano to deliver dialogue, she isn't going to win any awards, but she gets the job done. She has to given the talent around her.

Ewan McGregor is the head of a covert team, which includes Carano's Mallory Kane, that the government employs for jobs it would rather not be involved with directly, such as a hostage extraction in Barcelona.

Michael Douglas is the government agent who serves as a liaison to the team.

And Michael Fassbender is a British intelligence agent with whom Mallory is paired on an assignment in Dublin. The discovery of a dead body there arouses her already piqued suspicions about the job. Her partner's attempt on her life confirms them.

Marked for death and framed for murder, Mallory goes on the run from both her employers and international authorities while trying to sort out what went down in Barcelona and Dublin.

Soderbergh moves the movie along at a swift pace, his concise storytelling and rhythmic editing fitting it snugly into its 93-minute running time. The action is low-tech—no fancy pyrotechnics or computer graphics—and that only increases its impact.

You might think you've seen this movie before—but you haven't seen it like this.
Greg's Grade: A-

(Rated R for some violence. 93 minutes.)

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