Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano and Mathieu Kassovitz
It’s no secret I have an unabashed love for movies centering around females out for revenge on those who’ve done them wrong. KILL BILL, LADY SNOWBLOOD, and LA FEMME NIKITA are just a few of the greats in this action subgenre. Thanks to Steven Soderbergh and his new film HAYWIRE, I’m adding a new favorite to my “ladies who kick ass” list: Former MMA star Gina Carano.
HAYWIRE starts in snowy upstate New York. Mallory Kane (Carano), face bruised and looking worse for wear, sits alone at a diner when Aaron (Channing Tatum) confronts her, wanting to bring her in. The two get into a conversation that escalates into a major knock-out brawl. She absconds with another diner, Scott (Michael Angarano) in his car. Over the course of their – albeit brief – road trip, Mallory tells Scott she is a contracted assassin for a company run by her ex-lover Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). In Dublin, on what was to be her last job, she was double crossed and must now use her elite Marine training skills to exact revenge on those who set her up.
Soderbergh is no stranger to working with newbies. He molded a brilliant performance out of the rather unlikely source of porn star Sasha Grey in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE. In HAYWIRE, Carano’s lack of acting experience plays well to her character’s strengths of being calm, collected and always in control. Mallory doesn’t have to do a whole lot of talking in her line of work: Only talking with her fists and knowing how to shoot a gun is necessary. Her performance is a little on the unpolished side – a stark contrast to her virtually flawless appearance. However, once she starts fighting, you can see why Soderbergh wanted to build a movie around her talents. Naturally her fight scenes are the real showstoppers. Brilliantly choreographed and shot, they are full of wonder, badassery, and amazement at how she uses her body as a weapon. Her thigh vise grips are sure to make any Bond villainess jealous. There’s a fantastic sequence involving her and McGregor on the beach that winds up being the complete antithesis of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. A tongue-and-cheek nod by Soderbergh perhaps?
HAYWIRE takes a little while to ramp up as there are so many questions swirling around in your head, but once it does, audiences will find themselves fully engaged with Mallory’s journey. Another small weakness is that Angarano’s character Scott is essentially forgotten about once Mallory gets him out of harm’s way in the second act. Dobbs’ script seems to set up Scott to play a bigger role in the film (he represents the audience’s POV) than what actually occurs. And finally, if there’s a weakest link in the stellar cast line up, it would definitely be Tatum, whose wooden acting style and lack of chemistry with the leading lady makes audiences cringe every time he’s on screen. Carano sizzles with virtually every other cast member (specifically Fassbender) in the picture except Tatum.
HAYWIRE feels very much inspired by the refined quietness of Antonioni and early Coppola (THE CONVERSATION in particular) with Sean Connery’s James Bond and Jason Bourne mixed in for good measure. Composer David Holmes’ 70’s style pulpy pop soundtrack complements the crime thriller tone despite almost outstaying its welcome. As usual, cinematography by Soderbergh is slick and sophisticated, imbuing his frame with warmth and crispness.
What I loved most about the film is that it’s all tied up in the end. There are no loose ends and there’s a satisfactory conclusion to our kick ass heroine’s tale.
HAYWIRE played AFI Fest on November 6. The film opens wide on January 20.