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Haywire - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: B-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

Haywire is the first film starring former mixed marital arts fighter Gina Carano to get a mainstream theatrical release, thanks to director Stephen Soderbergh, who seems to have attained a kind of status in Hollywood akin to Woody Allen. That is, pretty much everyone wants to work with him. Including, apparently, former mixed martial arts fighters. And why shouldn't Carano want to? Soderbergh reportedly saw her in action and decided he wanted to build a movie around her.

That this woman was the starting point from which everything about Haywire grew is part of its problem. It doesn't come from an original idea; far from it: a skilled government agent is framed and she has to fight her way all the way back to a good name. Yawn. This movie is largely just an excuse to watch Carano kick some ass. Soderbergh was so intent on her bad-assery, he had her voice digitally lowered for the film. I wonder how Carano felt about that?

For movie-goers, this will be most of their first time seeing her. It's tempting to say she holds her own against the star studded cast that surrounds her, except that her acting is merely decent at best, and the mass of gifted actors with whom she interacts seem to lower themselves to her level. We've got Michael Douglas; Channing Tatum; Antonio Banderas; Bill Paxton; Ewan McGregor; even the recently ubiquitous Michael Fassbender. Most of these guys have more than proved their talents in past projects (well, except maybe Channing Tatum, who is better at being eye candy), but across the board they offer the same bland delivery as Carano.

Luckily, dialogue is kept at a minimum. And there is actually something to Haywire's credit, and it's not insignificant: it may be filled with action sequences, but they are sequences executed unlike any other movie. It's like a genre film with a distinctly Soderbergh stamp on it (too bad Soderbergh couldn't have written it as well, instead of Lem Dobbs, who offers us countless supporting characters impossible to keep straight and no reason to care). There's a weirdly muted presentation to the fight scenes, with no score, as though we're just watching live footage of a fight. This intensifies the focus on Carano's clear fighting skills, with impressive maneuvers that never appear digitally manipulated.

Indeed, the production values on Haywire make it appear at least moderately low-budget -- in any case, far lower than the much glossier film Soderbergh last gave us, last year's Contagion, which was just as far above mediocre as this movie. Which is to say, not much. But the action set pieces are still impressive, particularly a chase scene through a snow-covered road in the woods that ends in a deer crashing through the vehicle's back window.

At least there are things like that to offer some surprises, and keep the audience interested, even if they never quite know what the hell is going on. The script is so indecipherable as to be practically meaningless. Haywire seems to fancy itself a clever-cool action movie, and on that front it has flashes of potential. But at the end of the day, however entertaining much of it may be, it's still just another throwaway action thriller that's all brawn and no brains. Making the lead character a woman doesn't change that, unless the story is compelling regardless. With that in mind, you might as well go ahead and rent the superior Hanna.

Gina Carano is about to give Michael Fassbender a surprise in HAYWIRE.

Overall: B-
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