Steven Soderbergh is going to retire. We know that because he keeps telling us that. But before the director of Erin Brokovich, Ocean’s Eleven, and Traffic hangs it up, he keeps producing more movies that hold our attention, often taking a “normal” theatrical situation and portraying it in an abnormal way. In the case of Haywire, Soderbergh has crafted a story of double-crossing, murder, and mayhem in the world of espionage, but instead of the Matt Damon, Jason Statham, testosterone-driven brute, he has wrapped the tale around a woman, American Gladiators/MMA fighter Gina Carano.
It’s pretty jarring to see the first fist fly and connect squarely with Carano’s face, or that of her character, Mallory Kane. All production notes or interviews I’ve read say that the other guys got the worst of it, given that Carano is actually a trained fighter. But the movie plays out that string: what will we think of a woman getting pulverized and pummeling a man? It’s worked for Jennifer Garner in Alias, the various players who have participated in Le Femme Nikita versions, and Lynda Carter in Wonder Woman. But is Soderbergh helping Carano market herself as the next Bourne-like character, only female?
The movie takes us through the first half of the storyline through flashbacks as Kane escapes Channing Tatum’s Aaron and tells her side of the story to a man whose car she hijacks (Michael Angarano). We segue from that recap into the rest of the story, which finds Kane working with and against the likes of Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor’s characters in the shady espionage war. We’re sure Kane isn’t rogue, but she’s framed, on the run, and bent on finding out who is pulling the strings. And Soderbergh leads us through the fight scenes and action without resorting to fuzzy camerawork or stunning special effects; this is Gina Carano, raw.
The film is genuinely entertaining, and I look forward to seeing Carano again with more plot to work with, more emotional depth. Sure, we see the devotion she has to her father, her desire to clear her name, and her disrespect for those who would hurt civilians, but there’s not a ton of development. While I liked it, I found myself wondering if it would’ve been straight-to-DVD if you changed the names. The action is good, the acting better than average, but the plot is something akin to a Steve Austin flick. The special features give you some more on Carano and her motley crew of men, but the highlight here is the action in high-definition.