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Haywire (2012)

May 8, 2012

VERDICT:
8/10 Undercover Sisters

What can’t Steven Soderbergh do?

Haywire is about a secret agent working in the private sector of the US government who gets hand-picked to handle an overseas rescue mission. After she does her job like the boss she is, she gets shipped off to Dublin for a routine operation where all she has to do is look pretty and play wife to a fellow agent. Lo and behold, she comes to find that the whole thing’s a set-up, she barely escapes with her life, and she starts leaving a trail of bodies in her wake as she sets out to find who the heck wanted her dead and why.

I wish Steven Soderbergh did more movies like this. I don’t mean that as a slight on his other movies, because if my excitement for Magic Mike is any indication, I’ll see just about anything if it’s got his name on the bill…even if it is Flashdance with dudes. Nevertheless, this is his bread and butter. Put this alongside Out of Sight and The Limey, and I think you’ve got a strong case for Soderbergh being one of the coolest goddamn directors of all-time. High praise right there, some might say too high, but in a world where far too many directors have lost touch with what “cool” is, Soderbergh has proven himself a constant reminder.

Now, without having seen the movie, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to this story that hasn’t been done before. Spy gets a burn notice, spy gets underestimated, spy turns the tables, spy does some burning of her own. No, it isn’t scoring too high in the originality department, but that’s okay. Even with the predictable plot, it’s still fun to be kept in the dark and wonder what’s going down behind closed doors. Come on, it’s a movie about spies offing spies, of course it’s intriguing. I don’t know about the rest of ya’s, but I don’t think this is a sub-genre anyone’s grown particularly tired of, and that alone makes it easy to overlook some of its more familiar qualities. It’s the same reason we’re up to 23 Bond movies and still chomping at the bit for more.

Although what does make this different is the way it’s executed. For starters, the score here is effing amazing. It’s like watching an action movie set to Bitches Brew, and if that doesn’t do it for ya’, then you need to drop what you’re doing and go listen to Miles. It’s not the first time Soderbergh’s gone with jazz to set the mood, it worked like gangbusters in Out of Sight, and, once again, it’s the perfect complement to the film’s tone and Soderbergh’s direction. I don’t know what else to say, it’s just that freaking good. It’s like time traveling back to the ’70s, a time when cool came in droves until Wham! ruined it for everybody.

Look, just go listen to Miles. You’ll understand.

But aside from the score, I really dig how stripped-down this movie is. There isn’t a lot of dialogue, everyone is all business and to the point, and most importantly, everyone uses their inside voices. That, dear readers, is the best kind of dialogue. I like getting my information on a need-to-know basis and I appreciate scripts that don’t feel compelled to spell everything out every step of the way. Would have been nicer if more of the plot was driven by story and dialogue than by globe-trotting beat-downs, but there is a decent story here, certainly decent enough to elevate this from being a mindless excuse to watch Gina Carano go ape on the opposite sex.

Then again, it is awesome watching Gina Carano go ape on the opposite sex.

I don’t speak for the majority, but I’m the kind of guy who likes his action movies raw. That hallway fight scene from Oldboy? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. I don’t need drawn-out firefights, I don’t need computer-generated ninjas on wires, I don’t need car chases where I can’t even tell what I’m watching ’cause the director won’t stop shaking the damn camera. I need people getting down and dirty, mano-a-mano, without all the bells and whistles. Soderbergh knows what I’m talking about, and he doesn’t pull punches.

There are a whole bunch of fight scenes here, more so than I was expecting, and each one managed to get a good “Goddamn!” out of me at some point or other. And I love how camera gets right up in the mix without getting in the way of the fight choreography, because the choreography is on-freakin’-point. It makes real good use out of Carano’s MMA chops and it is scrappy as all hell, like how one would imagine a one-on-one trained killer fight would go. It’s just an action movie after my own heart: a no frills, no-nonsense exercise in people beating the tar out of each other. It’s like watching a live-action remake of the best Tekken matches of my youth, and that is a-okay by me.

So I think I’ve made it crystal that the action here ain’t lacking, but the acting ain’t too bad either. Carano doesn’t have to do a whole lot thanks to how played-down the speaking scenes are, so she makes due and gets it done. And taking the brunt of Carano’s punishment are the absolute handsomest devils off of Hollywood’s A-list, none of whom are particularly known for having their asses handed to them. We’ve got Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, and Channing Tatum, all of whom are solid, even if they are spread a bit thin. Despite this being the second time I’ve actually liked a Channing Tatum movie, there isn’t much to highlight in the acting department. All the same, everyone’s as good as they usually are and they do a great job of shadowboxing convincingly against a gal who beats people into goo for a living.

Haywire doesn’t do anything all that new as far as action thrillers go, but what it does do, it does exceptionally well. It bleeds style, it runs at a seamless pace, and it’s just one of those movies where it seems like everything’s working in unison. Perhaps my Soderbergh love has swayed me, but I had a blast. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a slick action movie. And, honestly, what’s not to love about Gina Carano? There will never be enough tough, badass women in the world of movies, and Soderbergh deserves a high-thirty for seeing the potential in Carano and essentially making a movie that revolves entirely around the beast that she is.

Sarah Connor would be proud.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2012 7:14 am

    I ejected Haywire after about a 1/2 hour. Boring.

  2. May 8, 2012 11:09 am

    In the last ten minutes or so, the movie may as well have just been called Gina Carano Is Right Behind You with the repeated set-up of her, uh, sneaking up on dudes from behind and wailing on them. But that’s a nitpick.

    Your first line says it all. Soderbergh often gets painted as a chameleon of sorts because of his ability to blend into any genre, and I think both Contagion and Haywire just underscore that argument even further. The guy can work in any category, and yet he’ll always be making Soderbergh films because his aesthetic just screams his name so loudly.

    I liked this a lot. Carano’s probably the key to the whole thing working– she’s not a sublime actress or anything, but she does better than she should given her relative experience and on top of that, she knows how to fight. Most male action stars don’t; they’re just glorified beefcakes who can act better than the cannon fodder tossed at them. Carano’s the reverse. She can fight, but she’s not a professional actress, so Soderbergh throws a ton of accomplished male actors in front of her to hold her up.

    • May 8, 2012 11:28 am

      Hahaha. It totally was. Loved Antonio’s last line though.

      And while I haven’t reviewed it, I really liked Contagion, too. Man, I could just ramble about Soderbergh. No one makes movies like he does, such a distinctive style that works for any situation (except those Oceans sequels).

      And good point about the rest of cast bolstering Carano’s acting. Could have been a great way to show how unaccomplished she is in that regard, but it totally worked in her favor. Thought she had a really good voice though, if that counts for anything.

      Glad you dug it, man. This was a good’n.

  3. May 8, 2012 12:06 pm

    OOOHHH you beat me too this one haha damn you 😀 nice job, i am releasing my review tomorrow 🙂

  4. May 9, 2012 1:27 am

    Own this film and love it, you’re right there’s nothing Steven Soderbergh can’t do!

  5. May 9, 2012 11:15 pm

    I’m curious why it didn’t get wide release. That’s kind of the only thing stopping me from seeing it on demand. I know I shouldn’t but the “straight to video/DVD/on demand” thing really does color my preconceptions. Oops. I’m intrigued by the trailers, but I’ll keep reading reviews to see if its worth my 4.99.

    • May 11, 2012 11:09 am

      That’s weird, I thought it did get a wide release? Idk, maybe I’m just jaded by the theater options in Manhattan. Definitely wasn’t straight-to-DVD though, it’s way, way better than that. I say drop the five bucks.

  6. May 18, 2012 4:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Ryaandavis.

  7. Ryan permalink
    November 29, 2012 10:52 am

    I watched this the other night and enjoyed it for the most part. There were two main things I took away from this movie. 1) For a movie that I’m not even sure made it to theaters, there sure were a lot of big name actors in this. (Douglas, Fassbender, Tatum, Banderas, McGregor
    2) The fight scenes in this were some of the most realistic and overall best I’ve seen in a while. The punches looked real, and nothing was ever completely over the top as to take you out of the movie.

    There was something a little off about the pacing or something that could have made this a great movie, versus a good one though. Can’t quite put my finger on what was missing.

    • November 29, 2012 6:53 pm

      Glad you liked it, homey. Awesome music, huh? And in response to your points:

      1) It came and went when it was in theaters, sometime in February/March. Hell of a cast though, deserved more publicity than it got.
      2) Totally agree, easily one of the best action movies of the year (not that there have been tons of those to begin with). Loved how straightforward and hand-to-hand it is. More movies ought to take note. And if you haven’t already, check out The Raid: Redemption (also from this year) if you’re jonesing for some more badass asskickery. Tad more over the top than Haywire though.

      And I think I know what you’re getting at with the pacing. Is a bit stop and go at times, especially when the action’s so awesome.

      Also, just got into South Park for some reason and am almost finished with Season 15 on Netflix (working my way backwards). Haven’t laughed this hard at a show since the first season of Eastbound and Down, dude. That episode where Lemmiwinks returns and the one right after it with the subliminal BJ messages in Broadway shows had me on the effing floor. Very sorry for taking so damn long to get around to this. I have no one to blame but myself.

  8. January 13, 2013 3:18 pm

    Just finished watching it.

    Was that jazz? I thought it was soundtrack/ moodmusic, although I see what you mean with the comparison to ‘Bitches Brew’

    Nice to see Barcelona represented (I currently live there/ here).

    You’re spot on with the realism of the fight scenes and the lack of ‘dress-up’.

    The only thing that let it down for me was the computer generated voice used when she explains the ‘LEOs’ acronym to the 19yr old bloke. Bad form.

    • January 14, 2013 4:49 pm

      I forgot about her fake voice, but an understandable complaint when you’re dealing with professional spies.

      And yeah, it was jazz. Not sure who it was specifically (should probably IMDB that ish), but it totally made the movie for me regardless.

      And you lucky bastard. How come I don’t get to live in Barcelona? No fair, man. No fair.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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