Mania Review: Haywire -

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Bill Paxton
  • Written by: Lem Dobbs
  • Directed by: Steve Soderbergh
  • Studio: Relativity Media
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Haywire

She's not a woman... she's The Terminator.

By Rob Vaux     January 20, 2012

 The fight choreography in Haywire is some of the most creative and dynamic of the last few years. That may not sound like a big deal, but considering that the film consists of leading lady Gina Carano kicking the righteous crap out of all but two of her costars, it bears serious consideration. Steven Soderbergh crafts her onscreen image into a wafer-thin pro-feminist spy thriller that thrives solely because we haven’t seen its like before.

For starters, Carano doesn’t carry herself like a traditional leading lady. The former mixed martial arts star needs no special training and thus doesn’t resemble a dilettante playing at being a spy. Her physicality and toughness feel 100-percent natural, and while her thespian skills are less than perfect, they fit well with the character she plays. She’s a no-nonsense employee for a private securities firm, tasked with various down-and-dirty deeds around the world. The last one proves disastrous, as she and her team secure a whistleblowing journalist from a safe house in Barcelona. All goes well until she suddenly finds herself targeted by her ostensible allies. Alone and without aid, she needs to determine who’s after her and why.

The Byzantine plot entails numerous players, including her wet noodle boss (Ewan MacGregor), new partner (Michael Fassbender) and various shady figures who may or may not be at the heart of it all. Soderbergh wisely eschews the specifics, giving us just enough information to hold it all together before cutting Carano loose against anything and everything in her way. It gets a little repetitive sometimes – the fights basically consist of Carano and some hapless opponent squaring off in closed quarters – but Soderbergh’s visual style keeps it from wearing on our nerves.

More importantly, he shows us how smart this woman is, both in her preparations and in the way she thinks on the fly.  Most characters of this sort play off of the femme fatale cliché: luring men in before breaking their necks. Carano eschews the first half of the equation. She balks at wearing a dress, seems uncomfortable at formal parties, and can barely hold a casual conversation.  Like Jason Bourne, she’s a killing machine first and always, obsessed with the task before her and methodically determining the best means to get it done. We see her ability to handle unanticipated problems – ways of slowing pursuers or improvising solutions – without bringing the sex symbol component into the equation. She never wears revealing clothes (even her evening gowns are demurre), and practicality governs every aspect of her life. Soderbergh accentuates the loneliness of her existence, but also the fact that it’s her choice and the firm morality that prevents her from sliding into the casual monstrosity of her foes.

Most of Haywire’s feminism stays in the background, however: implied rather than overtly stated.  Instead, the film focuses on the mayhem… and what exquisite mayhem it is. The fights carry not only a sense of overriding lethality, but an air of the absurd as well, with combatants who don’t quite know what’s going to happen next and react accordingly. It accentuates the imaginative moves and lightning-quick pacing, leaving us awaiting each new throwdown with breathless anticipation. Soderbergh doesn’t overstay his welcome, and with the superfluous elements kept on the periphery, we couldn’t mistake this for anything but a bit of January fluff. Haywire understands that job and goes about it with surprising competence. This isn’t the way the first few weeks of the year are supposed to go: a welcome surprise to which such a lean bit of espionage constitutes an honorable addition.


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Dazzler 1/20/2012 4:35:28 AM

She talking Wonder woman also.  Of course every chick actor wants that.  I'll see this anyway.  Chick action flicks that are solo never work however. 

hanso 1/20/2012 4:47:05 AM

 It's a shame that Soderbergh is talking about walking away from the game after this year.  Hope he doesn't.


jedibanner 1/20/2012 7:16:20 AM

I want to see this, looks great, this review just seal the deal.

monkeyfoot 1/20/2012 7:34:13 AM

I'm trying to decide whether to see this or Red Tails this weekend.

I consider myself a movie fight conniseur. It is a beautiful and cool ass dance the actors and fight choreographers come up with that can make a scene or even the most cheap B action movie worth looking at. That's why I don't look at any new Steven Seagal straight to DVD flicks. The fight scenes are awful. His stuff used to be great in his heyday.

I can tell from the clips I've seen that lovely Carano's slugfests are worth the price of theatre admission for me. I love to be able to see what techniques the actors/martial artists are using. I despise the choppy quick cut/shaky cam style for fights unless it works for the story. And the 

Now I just gotta decide whether I want to see planes blowt up or the beautiful Gina Carno snapping somebody's neck. 

Wiseguy 1/20/2012 8:19:18 AM

The positive buzz I was reading over the last 2 weeks is what made me want to see this. Generally I wouldn't bother with something starting an mma fighter but apparently Carano has what it takes and I wish her success since her mma career took a hit the second she lost to that guy from brazil. Plus it isn't like women's fighting is catching on with anyone, just like boxing it was a flash in the pan

brandfrontier 1/20/2012 9:05:04 AM

"the second she lost to that guy from brazil."

I see what you did there. :P

That 'guy' also recently got booted for steroids.

6dra6on6 1/20/2012 9:15:49 AM

Great shot at Cyborg, Wiseguy. I laughed out lout. Steroids and not skill are the only reason Cyborg won that fight. When she walked in that cage she was 20 lbs heavier than Corano. With a weight difference that much there's now way she had a chance. And Cyborg testing positive for steroids? Really? Was there any doubt..?

Ima see this movie tomorrow. Been waitin for it for some time now.

lusiphur 1/20/2012 9:17:11 AM

 Didn't I see this with Angelina Jolie?  Just kidding ... this looks really good and I trust Soderbergh to deliver here.  This may be the movie I go see this weekend.

Wiseguy 1/20/2012 9:21:14 AM

Wow didn't know about Cyborg testing positive but not surprised at all. Too bad because if Carano had won her name would've really taken off back then.

wish 1/20/2012 9:59:01 AM

I completely echo Hanso, S.S. has been one of my absolute favorites over the last decade, his filmography is one of the most impressive and diverse resumes of any current director! 

This looks great, Girls need a better champ than the ones they've had, there hasnt' been a kickass chick in movies since Linda Hamilton mentality ripped all our dicks off in T2.  Angelina has always been a joke, like a rack of bones can ever be a threat ha!  And Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity is one of the worst attempts at "tuff chick" I've ever seen!!  If it wasn't for Kate Beckinsale's killer Vamp in the underworld films, I'd have no examples to offer for a positive when it comes to the "tuff chick" category.............because I just can't take Hit Girl seriously........but eternal respect to Chloe Grace Moretz for that.........certainly one of the most enjoyable characters of recent years!!

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