Film Review : Haywire
● By Justin Buettner
Haywire tells the story of a private mercenary for hire that gets framed by her boss for a murder that she did not commit. She then spends the rest of the film on the run in search of the conspirators behind the set-up, which means a great deal of bloodshed, shootings and fist fights.
Steven Soderbergh has a very specific style to his films. It worked extremely well in many of his successes like the Oceans Eleven series. He uses the box office success of his big blockbusters to help push through his smaller endeavors which clearly fall under the realm of arthouse films. Haywire seems to be a very strange mix between arthouse film and a big box office action film, but doesn’t do either well.
The movie is the first venture into acting for Gina Carano, who is a champion female mixed martial arts athlete. To Carano’s credit she is very natural when performing the fighting stunts. Unlike other movies when the fight sequences play out like a dance, many of Haywire’s fights come across as particularly brutal. Carano knows how to throw a punch, a kick and a submission move...and that comes across on screen loud and clear. However the brutality of the fights actually made me uncomfortable too. Usually when a female character is involved in hand-to-hand combat it is done in a cartoony fashion. Characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mindy from Kick Ass, or even Sarah on TV’s Chuck all either fight super-natural villains or the action has a light air to it -- usually it’s good, mindless fun. In Haywire men beat on Carano in an extremely violent ways, and call me old fashion, but it bothered me to see violence against a girl, no matter how tough she was.
In addition to her action exploits, Carano also shouldered the lead in the movie and was forced to act -- she did not fare as well in this department. Her delivery seemed forced, and she did not look comfortable in any of her dramatic scenes. It did not help her that she was surrounded by a supporting cast of not only good but great actors. This only highlighted her shortcomings as a rookie actress. This casting decision lies with Soderbergh so he should shoulder much of the blame of the movie's shortcomings. In addition, this is not the first time Soderbergh has tried using a novice actress in a leading role in his film. In fact, he cast Sasha Grey, a pornography star, as the lead in The Girlfriend Experiment a few years ago to better results. At least Gray was used to performing in front of cameras unlike Carano. With time Carano could develop into an action star -- she definitely has the look -- but she needs to work on her acting ability to fully make the transition.
The script for Haywire, written by Lem Dobbs, was not particularly strong which surprised me. Dobbs has not written a script in more than ten years after a string of five successful crime action dramas in the late nineties. I expected after a break his return would feature a strong story. Unfortunately the characters are rather flimsy, the dialogue was stilted, and the plot was not as clear as it should have been. When reveals were made in the film they did not come across as particularly interesting or that surprising.
Other strange choices by the creative team -- including the music, choice in camera placement, and the way the film was lit -- never allowed the movie to mesh. There were too many competing elements that did not flow together well. While an arthouse action film like Drive had a streamlined tone and direction, Haywire came across as more of a jumbled mess. People who like action movies may find enough moments of hand-to-hand combat to declare this not a complete loss, but overall Haywire is a rare miss for a usually strong creative team.
Films like Haywire: Columbiana, Salt and LeFemme Nikita
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.