Steven Soderbergh’s star-studded Haywire doesn’t kick as much ass as it could

It is always refreshing to see a woman kick some serious ass.  While most tales center on a male hero in distress, recently two new heroines sparked on the silver screen:  Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mallory Kane in Steven Soderbergh’s stylish action flick Haywire.

However, while Lisbeth isn’t an obvious heroine, Mallory is one in her own right.  Lisbeth’s physical appearance, cunningly executed acts of violence against her oppressors, and overall weird factor, make her one of a kind.  She doesn’t possess any physical strength and so trusts that her appearance is enough to scare people off.  On the other hand, Mallory relies mostly on her fighting skills in order to literally terminate any human (read ‘male’) obstacle in her way.  Her main asset is her ability to successfully make a man land on his back.

Therefore, Haywire is a more physical film than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Soderbergh brings a star-studded cast led  by retired mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano. Often referred to as the face of women’s MMA, she is her own stunt woman in a movie whose only enjoyment comes from watching her make grown men cry.

Written by Lem Dobbs (The Score), the film’s plot is confusing, but the outcome is predictable. Kane unknowingly takes a journalist hostage in Barcelona, and later finds out he is killed by a British agent (Michael Fassbender) with whom she was to be allied on her next mission in Dublin.  She realizes that she was framed for the murder and wants to clear her name. But she’s unsure if her boss and ex-lover Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) or Barcelona job enabler Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas) was behind the setup. She is determined to kill both.  

The action genre has become a venue for excellent film making and intelligent storytelling. Take Christopher Nolan’s Inception or Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive as examples. Haywire could have been a very smart action/thriller, especially considering its cast. Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Channing Tatum join Carano, McGregor, Fassbender and Banderas. However, the storyline is forgettable and the dialogue benign. I’m allowing myself one spoiler by saying that the last line of the film is “Shit.”

It is clear that Soderbergh saw Carano and decided to make a film centering on Carano fighting, and this is what Haywire is. She definitely dominates the fighting scenes, but when it comes to delivering a line, Carano lacks charisma and chemistry with her male co-stars.  There are some memorable scenes, particularly the hotel fight with Michael Fassbender, which has a film noir quality to it with a pinch of dark humor: a first date gone rough.

The cast could have benefited from a stronger script,  but I have to admit that there is a certain enjoyment in watching the male characters get their asses handed to them by a woman who kicks and punches circles around them. It’s too bad Haywire doesn’t end up doing that enough.

3/5

By Radina Papukchieva
Follow me on twitter @Papukchieva
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About Radina Papukchieva

Radina Papukchieva came to live in, be consumed by, and love Montreal in 2003 from Bulgaria, with her mother and little sister. She is still a semester away from graduating from Concordia University, where she is doing a double major in journalism and communication and cultural studies, as well as a minor in film studies. Her interests include film, TV, and popular culture. And Woody Allen. She is a film writer for CultMontreal.com and co-creator of The Cafe Phenomenon. Her list of inspirational people includes Tina Fey, primarily. Among her other interests are music, art, literature, and of course, food. Her film reviews have appeared in The Concordian and The Mirror.

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