MMA star Gina Carano makes her debut in Steven ‘Ocean’s 11’ Soderbergh’s latest movie, released on DVD. But this is much more than your bog standard Hollywood action film.
If you believe the poster and trailer to Haywire, then you’d expect pretty much your standard and brainless action film: Main character gets betrayed. Main character happens to be rather tasty at kicking people’s heads in. Main character kicks people’s heads in. End credits roll 90 minutes later. It’s fair to say that much of this does occur throughout the film. However, Steven Soderbergh’s latest film is anything but standard and brainless.
The film tells the story of Mallory Kane (MMA star Gina Carano) a mercenary who – after a job to free a dissident journalist from his captors – finds herself betrayed by her former boss and lover Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). With the authorities searching for her and Kenneth’s allies bearing down, Mallory must use all her smarts to figure out just what the hell is going and – more importantly – how she can go about getting her revenge.
As already alluded to, the marketing for Haywire is mostly at odds with the content (Hollywood marketers lying? I’ve never heard of such a thing) as Soderbergh brings an – an almost austere – sense of realism to a genre usually noted for its gloss and garishness. Haywire is drenched in the spirit of 70s American thrillers as it creates a world of muted colours, handheld camera movement and shifts in the narrative. The fight scenes mostly seem bone-crunchingly real, with Soderbergh turning down David Holmes’ brilliantly funky score at crucial moments so you can hear every sharp intake of breath, landed punch and well-timed kick. But Soderbergh’s aesthetic does not make the film dour or dull. This is partly thanks to some judged moments of humour that ensure the film doesn’t dip into the territory of the po-faced. But it’s also due to the fact that it feels genuinely different and exciting to some many other films of its ilk. The grey streets of Dublin would seem like a strange choice to stage an extended chase scene, but it works by virtue of the fact it seems so familiar whilst still managing to have an exciting sense of urgency. Soderbergh may be playing with conventions of the genre but he’s not making fun of it. The script itself – by Lem Dobbs (who also wrote Soderbergh’s criminally underrated The Limey, of which Haywire feels something of a companion piece) - fizzes with energy and has a welcome complexity (though those who have criticised the film for being too confusing should really pay closer attention.)
Carano has been accused in some quarters of being uncharismatic in her debut, but the very fact that her performance is low key is what makes it interesting. She doesn’t need to play Mallory as flashy, full of witty epithets and bon mots – she plays her as a smart, ass kicking machine who has little time for conversation. In other words, she’s the perfect mercenary. Carano is allowed to give her MMA skills free reign in the fight scenes but she still manages to make an impact even when she’s not mashing people’s noses into their face. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that Carano is surrounded by star power with the aforementioned McGregor joined by the likes of Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas and Michael Fassbender. Soderbergh does his usual job of reigning in the tendency of Hollywood actors to take over a film to make them concentrate of giving good performances that work for the film and allow Carano to shine.
Those who like their action simple and straight-forward may find themselves disappointed in Haywire (especially if they take the poster and trailer at face value). But those who want something that’s clever and unique whilst still managing to contain plenty of action, then you should make the effort to check this out as Soderbergh once again manages to blend the excess of the Hollywood film with the subtleties of arthouse cinema.
The extras on the DVD and Bluray are rather light, with a couple of featurettes and the (completely lying) trailer. There is also meant to be a commentary but it wasn’t on the review disc I got (booooooo), but history has shown that Soderbergh is very good at DVD commentaries.
Haywire is released on 21st May by Momentum Pictures on DVD and Bluray.
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