Steven Soderbergh quickly follows his virus pandemic film Contagion with Haywire, a low-key action film that pays homage to 70’s espionage films. It features another all-star cast, this time led by MMA fighter Gina Carano. Haywire isn’t your typical action film, mostly relying on subtle activity and brilliantly filmed hand-to-hand combat, opposed to explosions and lots of gunfire. It’s very much 2012’s The American, but at the same time it’s a very different film.
Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a contracted black ops soldier whose setup and double-crossed by a slithery boss named Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). Upon discovering Kenneth’s real agenda, she makes it priority number one to hunt down him and anyone else associated with the setup. It’s a fairly straight-forward plot, but Haywire chooses to tell the story a bit differently, bouncing back and forth between various locations and time periods.
For those of you looking for another action-packed shooter, you might want to try something else, because Haywire has so much more going for it. It’s paced with even distribution of ass-kicking action, but that isn’t to say there isn’t a story. Soderbergh keeps the story confusing on the outside, but easy to digest if you have half a brain. It’s not overly complicated stuff; it’s just very wordy and technical, which helps add to the element of realism.
Haywire is a spy film that could actually happen. There are secret companies that loan out their talent to the government for backdoor deals and negotiations, but like everyone else they have a specific set of rules in their contract when it comes to hazard bumps!
Carano is a star. She has so much raw talent that’s constantly glowing. She’s got the beauty, but she’s also not afraid to punch your teeth in or throw Michael Fassbender through a glass door. This is her first real big acting gig and for the most part she does just fine. Her dialogue is distant and delivered kind of blandly, but part of me thinks that’s intentional for the character of Mallory Kane, a distant and mostly serious contracted killer.
Michael Fassbender is seen in a decent sized chunk of the film, adding his charm and class alongside Carano. Seeing him in a supporting role like this only goes to validate my theory of him being one of the best working actors in the business. He brings the character to life in the short time that he’s on screen and that’s not an easy thing to do.
Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor are also featured in the film, but their roles aren’t nearly as interesting as Carano or Fassbender. This is mostly because of the significance of their roles, but also because the Fassbender/Carano one-two punch is just damn right impossible to beat. Tatum sticks out the most (in a good way) because of his ability to play the film straight-forward and come off as a total badass. This film, 21 Jump Street and (hopefully) Magic Mike will help rub off those boyish, only good for romantic comedy, traits that most people think of when his name pops up.
The hand-to-hand combat in this film is out of this world. Soderbergh pulls a total 180 when it comes to modern action filmmaking and places the camera far back and keeps it mounted. For once you’re able to witness the whole scene unfold in different than usual fashion. Everything is choreographed to look and feel real and grounded. I’d love to see more directors give this technique a try, because Soderbergh makes it work flawlessly.
When Haywire hit theaters earlier in January I said it was the best action film of the year and I still firmly believe that. Nothing has yet to impress me as much as Haywire. It’s not your ordinary action film, but that only benefits the film. The action is evenly paced and cleverly filmed, while the story keeps the dozen characters connected and important. Soderbergh remains one of the most diverse and talented directors of the modern day and I can’t wait to see what he does next!
The 1080p video transfer might not initially please all, but once you let it warm up it quickly becomes apparent that it’s another knockout from Lionsgate. Soderbergh approaches the film with a warmish array of colors that keeps things looking a little blurry and over-cooked, but it’s a stylish approach that I approve of. Actual detail and clarity is sharp and not difficult to spot.
The retro score comes to life on the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. There’s enough life in this track to keep everyone happy, although I’ll admit that it does take a little while to get going. Gunshots and bone-crunches come from the rear channels, while dialogue and most musical cues come popping up on the front.
If there’s one big complaint about the disc it would be the special features. There are only 2 features and a digital copy of the film, which is extremely disappointing considering the director and the cast he was able to work with. Here’s a list below:
- Gina Carano in Training (HD): A 16 min feature that outlines star Gina Carano and how she prepared for her role. There are various interviews with co-stars and other people that have helped Carano get to this level in entertainment. It’s great to get a look at Carano behind the camera and it only makes me appreciate her work even more.
- The Men of Haywire (HD): A short batch of interviews with a few of the men that star in the film.
- Digital Copy
Recommending Haywire is kind of difficult. It’s a spy film off the beaten path. One that might not appeal to all audiences. If you liked any of Soderbergh’s past “experimental” films than I’d strongly urge you to find this one and give it a shot. Also, for those of you that were pleasantly surprised with 2010’s The American, you might want to check this out, because Haywire might be 2012’s version of that. It promotes itself as a straight-forward action film, but in actuality it’s a slower approach, with much more precision and care.
The Blu-Ray is a winner in the video and audio department, but the lack of special features makes this one hard to warrant a purchase. The film alone has replay value, but the package is rather scarce, especially considering all of the talent involved. I’d go for a rental and figure out just how much Haywire works for you, if at all.
Steven Soderbergh's Haywire is his homage to classic 70's espionage films. It contains an upbeat and stylish musical score, plus all of the hand-to-hand combat is filmed with a steady camera and perfect distance, allowing you to witness everything first-hand, but never lose track of who is fighting who.