Looks that kill
Soderbergh’s actioner has fun going through the motions
I don’t pay much attention to mixed martial arts, but apparently Gina Carano is pretty good at it. So good that director Steven Soderbergh decided to make a movie to introduce Carano to the general public. As a package, Haywire isn’t much more than an exercise in lo-fi style over substance, with a script that is rudimentary at best: A top-shelf mercenary (Carano) is betrayed by her foolish boss/ex-lover (Ewan McGregor) and sets off on a globe-hopping tour of mayhem as she lays down some payback on him and the other men (played by a lot of familiar faces) involved.
I could expand the synopsis some more, but that’s essentially all there is to the story. I’ve seen the scenario hundreds of times before, and the movie doesn’t do anything but trot out the tropes. No real stakes, other than some general payback. And the end É well, I can’t call it an end. It’s the same type of deflating balloon Soderbergh had with Contagion. It’s like he got bored, called a wrap and went home to sleep on his next project.
But Haywire isn’t about the story. Haywire wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Carano. Eliminate her from the mix, and it’s not worth making. As such, Carano handles the acting just fine. Not good, just fine—although she does get stuck with some clunker lines. And unfortunately, Soderbergh spends an inordinate amount of time shoving the camera into her impassive face, and she doesn’t have the chops (yet) to convey what’s ticking in her character’s head.
But then, Haywire isn’t about the acting either, right? It’s about providing the viewer with the opportunity to watch a beautiful woman kick the shit out of a handful of deserving men. And she kicks down with the physical stuff damn well. The fight scenes are energetic and wince-inducing. And I appreciate that Soderbergh avoided the machine-gun editing, although the overall look of the movie suggests that he grabbed a stock prosumer video camera and hit the street.
I will be a little sexist here and say it’s nice to see a realistically beautiful, well-packed woman up on the screen who doesn’t look like a coat rack with a dress draped over it.