PLOT: After being double-crossed on a routine assignment, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), a black-ops contractor, finds herself on the run, and hunted by her former colleagues, who are under to control of her ex-boss Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) and the shadowy Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas).
REVIEW: HAYWIRE is the ultimate in stripped-down, balls-to-the-wall action. In his first (but hopefully not last- assuming the retirement rumors arenít true) time at the helm of an action-flick, director Steven Soderbergh, rather than go big, scales HAYWIRE back to the point that itís very much a companion piece to his earlier revenge drama THE LIMEY- with writer Lem Dobbs notably having penned both. Like that earlier film, HAYWIRE centers on a protagonists thatís so cold as to almost be unknowable, yet one with obvious cracks in her armor, suggesting a far more fragile human being under the icy exterior than youíd assume.
Similar to THE LIMEY, HAYWIRE is a revenge story, although the only one being avenged here is Mallory herself, whoís betrayed by her weaselly boss McGregor when he starts to think Kaneís becoming a little too capable and independent. He sends her on a mission to Dublin, where, unbeknownst to Kane, an Irish operative (Michael Fassbender in a smallish, but fun part) has been instructed to take her out. This leads to a savage brawl, one of about half-a-dozen featured in the film that absolutely destroys any hand-to-hand fight Iíve seen in a US action film in years.
It helps that Carano, being the second-highest ranked female UFC fighter, is physically more than a match for any of her male co-stars. This is in sharp contrast to something like COLOMBIANA, where weíre supposed to believe the ninety-pound Zoe Saldana can physically challenge legions of burly henchmen. Carano, being muscular but still sexy, uses whatever she has to against her opponents- be it a coke bottle, a wall to launch herself off of, or anything else.
The best fight in the film happens early- in a clip thatís already been widely circulated on the net where Mallory faces off with a fellow operative (Channing Tatum) with whom she has a history. The two of them go absolutely hog wild on each other, with him starting off the fight by throwing a hot cup of coffee in her face. Tatum- who Iíve always felt was a guy that genuinely seems like heís trying to improve in each movie, works well physically opposite Carano, and really seems like the only one with a shot of taking her down.
As an actress, Carano does well, although itís a pretty action-heavy part, with little in the way of emoting. Many have compared her performance here to Sasha Greyís in THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, and like that, this is a tailored part- but one thatís tailored beautifully.
The supporting cast, including heavyweights Antonio Banderas, McGregor, and Michael Douglas is strong. Douglas in particular shines in a smallish role as a shadowy government puppet master, who allegiances are ambiguous. I also really liked Bill Paxton as Malloryís ex-Marine father, whoís more than a little horrified towards the end once he realizes what a killing machine his little girl has turned into. Soderbergh also works in a little comic relief courtesy of Michael Angarano, as a college kid who makes the mistake of intervening in the early fight between Carano and Tatum, and as a result gets taken on a terrifying ride by Carano.
Behind the camera, Soderbergh, who seems to be in the midst of a major comeback between this and CONTAGION, keeps things going at a relentless pace. Despite this, Soderbergh never goes overboard, especially in regards to the sound mix, with HAYWIRE being a particularly quiet action flick. The Lalo Schifrin style score by David Holmes beautifully complements the action, although, in a wise move, Soderbergh immediately cuts the score anytime Carano starts fighting. Also donít expect any exaggerated sounds in the foley work during the action scenes. Soderbergh takes a naturalistic approach. For me, this is a BIG plus.
I really had a blast with HAYWIRE, and seeing it makes me really sad that Soderbergh ended up dropping out of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, as Iíve no doubt he would have made an excellent film. That said, we still have HAYWIRE to see how he approaches action, and itís obvious that itís a genre that fits Soderbergh like a glove.