johnlink ranks HAYWIRE (2011)

I love a good action movie. I love Steven Soderbergh. And that was all it took to watch HAYWIRE. I had no idea who was in this, what it was about, if it was any good. Went in to this fully blind, which is always the best way to see anything.

I watched HAYWIRE (2011) on 8.25.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

HAYWIRE concerns a young, female, independent contractor who basically works as a mercenary for hire, Mallory (Gina Carano).  She works for (and once dated) Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). When the film starts she has worked with a couple other hitman types, a guy named Aaron (Channing Tatum), and another named Paul (Michael Fassbender). They all try to kill each other at various points. Involved in this are a couple of government types as well, doing all the hiring. These two are played by Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. Mallory’s Dad gets involved at one point, he’s played by Bill Paxton.

So in typical Soderbergh fashion, we have a gallery of stars, though in this case the leading lady is probably the least recognizable of all involved. Carano is a former MMA fighter who also worked as a Gladiator in the American Gladiators short-lived reboot. She’s just now launching her career, and HAYWIRE is a solid vehicle for her.

Unfortunately, and I don’t think I have ever said this before, Soderbergh can’t get out of her way. The action sequences, especially the breakout of a hostage, is overly stylized. It counts on black-and-white shots, sepia toned shots, slow-mo, muted sound, etc. The tension is cut by the technique of the film trumping the action of the film. Then, in some mostly impressive fight sequences, Soderbergh speeds up the film to make Mallory appear faster than she is. Look: the woman is a trained Muay Thai fighter. I think she can hold her own without dropping frames.

Soderbergh has been accused in his career, at times  (especially in his popcorn flicks), of being style over substance. I have never once been aboard that train. I really love the OCEAN’S films (even if the second is highly flawed) and OUT OF SIGHT is one of the great crime films of the last 20 years. HAYWIRE doesn’t compare to his more seriously tilted films, like TRAFFIC or CONTAGION, so we can just stick with the action stuff. OCEAN and OUT OF SIGHT focus on the characters first, dialogue second, style third, and action fourth. HAYWIRE gets it wrong by going style first, action second, dialogue third, and character fourth.

The first scene of this film had me. Mallory meets up with Aaron in a diner and a typical Soderbergh directed scene (one where the characters throw information around not waiting for the audience) is followed by a nice fight. Good, solid start. The movie then jumps around Mallory’s time line as she tells her story to an innocent kid who helps her, Scott (Michael Angarano, who I just discovered in the underrated THE ART OF GETTING BY). By half way throw this sub-90 minute movie, it has all dissolved into a mess. We know these people are going to fight each other, but the movie wants to act like this is going to be some big surprise when it happens. The story, involving Mallory being set up, is one of those you can see coming a mile away. Movies can get away with this when they just drive the action forward. This doesn’t really happen in HAYWIRE. It just sort of plods along without giving us a big pay off. Because of the big names involved, we know where this is going. Antonio Banderas didn’t sign on to this movie to not have an impact. We know he is coming back in the final act. That is fine. So let that final act be something big and huge. Instead, it is small and unsatisfactory.

This is not Soderbergh being inept, of course. This movie has a nice look to it, and some shots are made much more interesting than they should be. The first example of this is anything involving Mallory and Scott in the car. Interesting angles, well shot. Secondly, is the scene of Mallory escaping police is nice in that she runs roof-top to roof-top as she flees. In a normal film the escapee has super-human powers of knowing the exact landscape of this new city’s roofing profile. In HAYWIRE we can see Mallory trying to figure out where to go next, often ducking into a spot because it becomes available, and sometimes not making the leap we assume she will, instead moving to another place. It’s a small detail, but it is the sort of detail this movie often disregards.

I really just did not like HAYWIRE at all. Perhaps my expectations were too high because Soderbergh’s name was on the ‘Directed By’ line. But the script just wasn’t there. Too bad, because everyone in this gives a nice performance. It did not come together the way it should have.






~ by johnlink00 on August 26, 2012.

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