The most admirable trait that Haywire possesses is its willingness to stay true to form throughout. It’s as tight as a drum, carrying hardly any fat, with very few wasted shots. This is nothing new for Mr.Soderbergh, who is exceedingly good at balancing his filmography between mainstream successes and true art house fare. Haywire coincides heavily with the former, but I’ve got the sense that some will dismiss it as a mindless one-note snoozer. The film is anything but, as Soderbergh pairs his routinely gorgeous panache with the eye-popping physical presence of Gina Carano, a retired mixed martial arts fighter who plays the part of black ops super soldier Mallory Kane to a tee. In a way, the film is a throwback to pulpy action flicks that offered not the best dialogue and story, but followed its protagonist and their wholehearted quest for revenge.
The film and its proceedings are anything but original, but do we really care? Watching Carano move through space is B-movie poetry. As we quickly learn from the onset, Mallory has been double crossed by her handler who hires her out to various global entities to perform jobs which governments can’t authorize. The film is told in non-linear fashion to clear up any confusion concerning covert ops jargon. In addition to Carano, the film features a handful of respectable, but unmemorable performances from Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton. Each of the male characters is in some way all intertwined with Mallory and her frenetic plight. Never once did I not believe Mallory Kane wasn’t the tenacious and sexy catalyst that Soderbergh and company are portraying her as; most of, if not all of the action set pieces in the film are entirely dominated by Carano and her athletic frame. Soderbergh’s attention to detail should never be taken for granted, as the camera catches every maneuver that Carano herself displays, as she performed all of her own stunts in the film.
Soderbergh’s staging of some early scenes evoke a giddiness also found in some of the director’s best work. Take for instance the sequence in Barcelona, choreographed and edited with pristine respect for the genre. The film’s score even has some hints of Ocean’s 11 in it, but with a more rhythmic edge. What we’re watching is the birth of the next potential female action star, as Soderbergh confidently frames the 30-year-old actress in a shadowy realm of betrayal throughout. The film hardly transcends any genre boundaries, but is effortlessly nimble in providing unfiltered raw energy for 90 minutes. For a director who says he’s retiring soon to grasp a potentially new angle on cinema and ways of storytelling, Soderbergh really has a knack for delivering the goods each time up at bat. Have fun with Haywire, but don’t be surprised if you immediately find yourself overtaken by the film’s narrative simplicity and the world in which Mallory so freely dominates.