Coming hot on the heels of last year’s Contagion, Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is the astoundingly prolific director’s first proper foray into the action genre. Soderbergh has never struggled with making genres his own, leaving an obvious authorial signature on each film despite his extensive back catalogue, and Haywire is no exception.
The essence of this film is that the themes and the plot are generic, but the delivery is anything but. UFC fighter and first time actress Gina Carano is Mallory Kane, a mercenary-cum-government assassin who is betrayed by her former employer and ex-boyfriend (Ewan McGregor), and hunts down anyone involved in a globe-trotting quest for revenge. The plot is virtually unnecessary, as the film amounts to little more than a few scenes of uninspiring dialogue linking together scenes of Carano beating up a famous actor. Thankfully, the action scenes are excellent: the star’s background as a professional fighter means that her fight scenes are filled with a realistic intensity, a convincing quality infusing her moves that is occasionally lacking from her line delivery, and some of the set pieces are the most exciting I’ve seen this year. A hotel room brawl with a rival British agent (Michael Fassbender) is outstanding, the action being immaculately choreographed and using a wide range of imaginative furniture-based weaponry.
Despite the starry cast, Haywire can best be described as a low-key action film. There are no explosions, and the fight scenes are always presented without the aid of a score, letting the sound effects take centre stage. This is both to the movie’s advantage and it’s detriment: it gives it an impressive visual style, but at the same time seems to rob it of purpose. While you may leave the cinema feeling satisfied, you certainly won’t remember much of what you’ve seen given an hour or two.
Haywire (2011), directed by Steven Sodobergh, is distributed on Blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK by Momentum Pictures, Certificate 12A.