In true Popcorn Bucket fashion, the film world is buzzing about awards and y’know- films that actually matter and I toddled off to see an action film with lots of punching, kicking and the occasional sexy chokehold.
You can just never predict what Steven Soderbergh is going to do next. From gritty biopics like the Che films to the crowd-pleasing frippery of the Ocean’s trilogy, the guy chops and changes track more often than a particularly indecisive iPod Shuffle. So, fresh from last year’s disease epic Contagion, Soderbergh has chosen to helm an action film made to showcase MMA star Gina Carano’s arse-kicking abilities and backing her up with an impressive cast list of famous faces. Like him or not, you can’t criticise the man for being a one trick pony.
“You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be your first mistake.”
Haywire centres on Mallory Kane (Gina Carano, best described as a lantern-jawed, cage-fighting version of Rebecca Black), a black ops agent who is betrayed by her organisation. Kane then goes rogue in order to track down the people responsible. That is really about it. I’ll forgive you for yawning. The plot is as uninspired as they come.It’s something we’ve seen a hundred times before and done better elsewhere. I get the feeling that the plot isn’t the point of the film however. This is basically a B movie (well, that specific kind of recent Hollywood B movie that imitates everything but the tiny budget) and as such, some schlock is to be expected. It’s almost a parody of the genre, but doesn’t quite tip the balance. I was really impressed with Gina Carano though. Considering this is her first film, she’s great. Granted, she’s playing a nigh-on emotionless unstoppable badass, but she definitely has a screen presence. As I said above, the supporting cast is terrific, especially Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor. Also human gerund Channing Tatum is here, lending his muscular blandness and strangely smooth face to proceedings.
Sod the plot though, action is why (disappointingly few) people are sitting down to watch this. I must say, the action’s great. Stevey Sodas strips current Hollywood fight conventions back down to the wire. There is no shaky-cam bullshit, no up-tempo music and no wire-fu. All you hear during the brutal fights are grunts and dull thuds. Each hit sounds like a heftily swung baseball bat hitting a sack of wet steaks. It’s refreshing to actually see the impressive choreography rather than try and make it out from frenetic editing and spastic camerawork. Carano’s fight with Fassbender in a Dublin hotel room is especially well done. There’s also a rooftop chase, which aims for realism, rather than hyper-excitement. The film can be quite minimalist at times, which can be very effective. There’s a scene where Mallory is walking down a Dublin street, expecting danger to come from any angle. The camera tracks her for a good 3/4 minutes, just walking on the pavement, with all the sounds of city life around her. This ain’t your typical action affair.
Whilst the plot can be forgiven to an extent, the rest of the film didn’t quite hang together for me. I really wanted to love this film, but there were too many things getting in the way. For one, I found the score to be truly obnoxious, with David Holmes, the man behind the slick Oceans’ soundtracks, basically doing the same jazzy, cool schtick with added annoying blaring brass bits. It’s repetitive and doesn’t sit well with the movie at all. The film can really drag too, with characters endlessly spouting expository dialogue to pad out the weak-as-fuck plot.
“You can tell me right now why you sold me out- or you can tell me in ten minutes when I have my hands around your throat”
In Mallory Kane, we finally have a proper female equal to Jason Bourne. Screw Angelina Jolie’s Salt or even Saoirse Ronan’s Hanna, Kane is the real deal. Haywire is a mixed bag. As an audition tape for Carano’s action chops, it works fantastically well. As a film, it falters, despite a stylish presentation and bloody decent fighting. Hopefully Carano will get the vehicle she’s crying out for soon.