I’m a big fan of action movies, in particular martial arts based movies, and the ones were new people are ‘discovered’, films such as Ong Bak when we were introduced to Tony Jaa, and Chocolate when we were introduced to JeeJa Yanin, are usually doubly exciting.
Both of the above movies weren’t exactly brilliant, but they were never intended to be. They were intended to be vehicles for the new stars, to show their prowess in the martial arts they had been practicing for years and years.
So when producer/director Steven Soderbergh caught site of Gina Carano (either on American Gladiators or in one of her MMA fights) he apparently instantly wanted to make a film for her, her very own vehicle.
The result is Haywire, written by Lem Dobbs who also wrote The Hard Way (the Michael J. Fox/James Woods movie from the early 90’s) and directed by the aforementioned Steven Soderbergh.
So what’s wrong with the film? Well for starters, despite the absolutely stellar cast, the acting is truly awful. Carano herself can’t act and the makers of the film wisely choose to give her as little ‘acting’ scenes as possible, as well as little talking as possible as well it would seem (apparently her voice was altered in post-production to make her sound more ‘gruff’).
Channing Tatum plays Caranos’ partner in the ‘agency’ she works for and he’s about as wooden as I’ve ever seen him, Michael Douglas makes an appearance and does add some much needed acting ability but he’s not around for long. Antonio Banderas plays, well, not really sure what his role is but he doesn’t have much to do so it would be unfair to say he was bad necessarily. Ewan McGregor is Caranos’ boss of sorts and he’s doing his usual faux American accent which just fails miserably. Michael Fassbender does a reasonably decent job with the role he’s given but he just looks bored and finally Bill Paxton appears as her Caranos’ father (with a moustache just so you think he’s old enough).
Throughout the movie you’re conscious of Soderbergh choosing some interesting shots throughout, and the movie does have a feel of an old French noir style film, shots through broken windows, in between pipe work and the soundtrack by David Arnold all give that feel, think Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy style shots and cuts and you aren’t far off.
The issue with this is that it doesn’t really suit the movie and you end up noticing the shots because the movie isn’t that good and it just adds to the ‘mess’ on screen.
The true ‘star’ of this film is Caranos’ fight moves. Her MMA fighting is evident in all fight scenes and some of the moves are pretty spectacular and Soderbergh, thankfully, pulls back with wide shots to give the action a chance to shine instead of the more recent trend of close-up shaky cam work that doesn’t.
It’s a shame then that there aren’t more set pieces from a fighting point of view. You get the sense she could do a lot more and scenes like the rooftop ‘chase’ (that’s being kind calling it a chase) is just so slow that you feel she could have done it in her sleep.
There was also the chance to turn this movie into something more, the start of a trilogy for instance which wouldn’t have been great admittedly but would have given Carano some further exposure and a chance to hone her acting skills. Instead Dobbs ties up pretty much all the loose ends, leaving it a little open, but there was an obvious point to end things and leave it wide, wide open.
The reason I add that last paragraph is that I recently altered one of my own scripts (an action film obviously) to make the lead character a female instead of a male. Carano would be perfectly suited to the role and in fact, with a few tweaks, the script could be a sequel. Just saying. Mr Soderbergh. Should you be reading. (I obviously know he’s not!).
You can buy Haywire on DVD here: Haywire DVD
You can buy Haywire on Blu-Ray here: Haywire Blu-Ray