Monday, August 27, 2012

Movie Review: Haywire (2012) Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Attention Hollywood! 
This is how you direct action sequences.

Haywire by Steven Soderbergh

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Blurb: Freelance covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is hired out by her handler (Ewan McGregor) to various global entities to perform jobs which governments can't authorize and heads of state would rather not know about. After a mission to rescue a hostage in Barcelona, Mallory is quickly dispatched on another mission to Dublin. When the operation goes awry and Mallory finds she has been double crossed, she needs to use all of her skills, tricks and abilities to escape an international manhunt, make it back to the United States, protect her family, and exact revenge on those that have betrayed her.

Thoughts: Joe Wright, are you paying attention? For future reference and to avoid a repeat of your awful cliche ridden performance with Hanna, please invite Mr Soderbergh to educate you.

This was a strange movie, a mash up of The Limey and Oceans Twelve featuring a non-actor in the lead role as an action heroine. And surprisingly it mostly works.

In lesser hands this would have been a weak movie devoid of interest but as always Soderbergh has more ability to tell an entertaining story in a cinematic way in his little finger than most directors in their whole body.

There's an issue with regards to the actual plot and the sequencing of events, part of the fault has to lay (and it pains me to say it) with screenwriter Lem Dobbs writing his first movie since The Limey and the other is the artistic way Soderbergh chose to shoot and cut it together. There are long slow passages (ordinarily fine) combined with some strange use of a jazz score which fail to sustain your interest when you add a lead character with all the personality of David Beckham.

That's not to criticise MMA fighting champion and American Gladiator Gina Carano too much, she was very good when not required to speak and the way she (and her stunt company) incorporated her MMA fighting skills in to the closer to real life situations in the movie was fantastic - no need to suspend disbelief in an action movie for once! - and as mentioned before, it was shot fantastically by Soderbergh.

The whole movie is a visual treat infact, with several sequences serving as pure pleasure causing me to exclaim wildly as they reached a crescendo - Soderbergh was clearly having a lot of fun with this one and gives a masterclass in how to put a scene together both in front of the camera and in the edit.

OK, so this review has basically functioned as a shameless fan boy praise session for Steven Soderbergh,  I can't deny it. Here's my disclaimer, if you don't like his more personal work then you probably won't like this movie. If however you thought Oceans Twelve was the best of the trilogy I think you'll get what he was doing here and have a great time.

I'd also draw comparison in style and approach towards the genre, even the tone and mood at times, with the recent Jim Jarmusch "thriller" The Limits of Control. Two great directors doing really interesting things in American cinema with tired old genre staples.

I've completely ignored the fact that Bill Paxton was at his least annoying in this movie, Michael Angarano was his usual very good self, Antonio Banderas looked like Saddam Hussein,
plus Michael Fassbender can fight like a pro and stars in one of the best fight sequences I remember seeing, against a girl no less!

 How did you feel about Haywire? Or Soderbergh's direction? What was your favourite Ocean's movie? Ever been seduced by a cougar? Leave it all in the blahs below.

Additional Reading:
The Hunter by Richard Stark
Queenpin by Megan Abbott
Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette

Additional Viewing:
The Limits of Control
Le Cercle Rouge


  1. I loved this movie (4/5). It was so much fun, and I agree on Soderbergh's cinematography. The main flaw for me was the 20 minutes or so after the opening scene, when they pick up the target. It lagged a bit there, but I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the film.

    Ocean's Eleven is probably my favorite, but I love every film in the trilogy. Never understood the hate for Twelve.

    1. Ah that section actually left me a little confused, i seemed to have no idea what happened but it didn't really effect my enjoyment despite the relative importance to the rest of the movie.

      Personally I found 13 to be a little dull after 12 despite the whole matt damon/cougar thing

  2. I think you, Josh and myself may be in the vast minority of people who dig this film so much. But either way, yeah, I love the hell out of it, for many of the reasons you mentioned.

    I'm a huge fan of a technically calm action sequence. Set the camera back, cut infrequently, and let 'em fuckin' fight. Great work on this post. Loved it.

    1. technically calm is a term that seems to be lacking from most Hollywood vocabularies and is the perfect phrase to describe a great action set piece. if the action is good enough you don't need to play smoke and mirrors with your cameera.

  3. You were kinder to Haywire than I was, but it was worth the price of admission watching her kick the crap out of Channing Tatum.

    1. Hey Alan, your comments have been ending up in my spam section, is this an ongoing aspect of blogspot hating you and your blog? I apologise that I didn't rectify it sooner.

      It was pretty surprising seeing him taken down in the opening scene I have to admit, and she did it very well.

  4. What I appreciate about HAYWIRE is that it’s not an over-the-top, excessive, CG-laden action film.