Sunday 22 January 2012

Review: Haywire

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Haywire poster

93 mins / Dir. Steven Soderbergh

Never get a job, with an intelligence service, governmental or private. Judging by this film and all the trailers before it, they fuck you over royally. You'd be better off getting a job as a low-level officer on a Star Destroyer, I reckon.

The Plot: A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.

The Good: It doesn't patronise the audience too much. By which I mean that I expected a dumb actioner, and as such spent a lot of time wondering what the hell was going on. The camerawork is fast and furious, the exposition isn't spoon-fed to you (see 'The Bad'), and the fight choreography is rather nicely done.

Gina Carano is a stand-out in this as Mallory Haywire*1. As aesthetically pleasing as she is (and that's the mildest way I can put it), I'd wondered why I'd never heard of her before. As it turns out, she's a rather good MMA fighter and ex-Gladiator. While that certainly qualifies her for a role such as this, you'd expect her performance to be… well… a bit Arnie? But no, she sold it to me wholesale. Maybe this kind of part will be the extent of her acting ability, but that'll be proved in the future as she'll no doubt be offered a stream of jobs after this.

Oh, and that bit where she shoots the man in the face*2? That made me grin like an idiot. I genuinely wasn't expecting that.

The Bad: Well, not bad, but I've got a section to fill. The story is initially told by Mallory as a series of (lengthy) flashbacks. While I like arriving in media res, and while cutting back to her explaining things to the guy whose car she's stolen excuses the gaps between set-pieces, I'm not sure there was that much to be gained by this. Once the story's been brought up to the current point, her hapless, captive audience is pretty much abandoned. Add on to this that a character such as Mallory (a professional assassin working for a private organisation sub-contracted by the CIA) seems to spill the beans pretty damned quickly, giving this civilian a dangerous amount of knowledge to be walking around with.

On top of this, it's not that the plot is necessarily hard to follow, but the convolutedness feels forced. Almost as if it's trying too hard and doesn't have the credentials to back up its boasts. Although had it not been that twisted, the film would probably have been as dumb as the one I was expecting.

The film's central thread isn't fully explained until the very last scene, but by that point you've pretty much worked everything out anyway. This should feel like a back-pat to the audience for being so brainy, but instead I felt slightly irritated that they'd dragged it out for so long. And if I was a trained killer? I wouldn't just 'leave people to die' the way they do in the movies like that.

The Ugly: Ewan McGregor can't do an American accent. Although Antonio Banderas' impression of Saddam Hussein pretty much makes up for this.

All in all: I wanted to like Haywire more. As engaging as it was, it didn't quite entertain me like the trailer suggested it would. Looking at Soderbergh's directorial list, he's made a career out of cleverer things than this. A spy/action/thriller doesn't really have that much to say. This one certainly doesn't.

But, it's worth a punt once it hits DVD/Sky.
Just don't expect a linear ride.


*1 That's right, isn't it? That's her name?
*2 See? No spoilers. I haven't told you which man she shoots in the face. Hard. At point blank range. Get in.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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