I have never been a fan of Steven Soderbergh. The man clearly is trying to do something different than most directors, and you have to respect that. However, other than a few exceptions (such as Ocean’s Eleven and Che: Part One) his films have been a bit of a letdown. After another letdown with Contagion (which was too overstuffed for its own good) it seemed like Haywire was primed for failure. It is a relief to say that Soderbergh has recaptured the spirit of Ocean’s Eleven and has created what will be one of the best action films of 2012 when all is said and done.
Haywire follows Mallory Kane (MMA fighter Gina Carano), a special agent who works for a mercenary company. While on a job in Dublin, a fellow agent attempts to assassinate her and now Mallory must unravel the conspiracy that surrounds her. Steven Soderbergh directs from a script by Lem Dobbs. Lem Dobbs doesn’t offer much to the film. His script isn’t exactly the best at tackling a conspiracy thriller. The conspiracy itself is very convoluted it makes itself seem like it’s more important than it actually is. The dialogue or character development doesn’t really snap off the page either.
Luckily, Soderbergh knows what he is doing. He brings back the vibrant and fast pace energy that has been missing from his films since Ocean’s Eleven, and it works wonders on the film. Soderbergh also turns out to be a great director of action. The fight scenes in this film are unlike anything you have seen in mainstream films. Soderbergh tries to make them as gritty as possible (allowing his actors to get beat up as much as possible and including an interesting sound mix that makes you really hear the damage that is being caused).
Soderbergh was also able to rope in a talented and game cast. Gina Carano gives a shockingly strong performance in the lead role. She is not a let down with the physicality of the role and is able to handle the non-action components of the character too. Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, and Michael Angarano compose most of the supporting players in the cast. The roles that these actors have are nothing more than devices that keep the story moving but each of them makes their roles seem more than it actually is. The two standouts from the cast though are Ewan McGregor and Channing Tatum. Ewan McGregor has never given a knockout performance to date, but he makes up for that by being Hollywood’s most reliable actor. It was nice to see him in a type of role that he normally does not play, and of course he handled it well. Meanwhile Channing Tatum is somehow keeping pace with co-star Michael Fassbender for most quality performances in a year. This is the second time this year (the first being 21 Jump Street) where he has stood out (this time playing a special agent with a past history with Mallory Kane).
With a loaded cast and some strong direction, Haywirewill be a film to remember from the first half of 2012.