Saturday, January 28, 2012

Haywire Review

What up Internet?  Last week I saw Steven Soderbergh's latest film, Haywire.  I'm a fan of Soderbergh's films; there isn't really a bad one in the bunch.  And that includes this fantastic mercenary/spy action-thriller.  Much ado was made about the story revolving around Haywire's lead, MMA fighter Gina Carano.  Soderbergh saw her fighting (while channel surfing) and decided to write a film around her.  And Haywire plays to her strengths with great effect.

Its no secret that Carano is no actor.  This is quite evident in her performance throughout the film.  She isn't necessarily bad (trust me, I've seen plenty of worse performances - see Beastly and you'll know what I mean) - she isn't necessarily great either.  Her delivering of dialogue is stiff and stilted; she shows virtually no emotions outside of "I'm angry and I'm gonna kick your ass."  Its also no secret that Soderbergh edited and altered her voice in post production.  He wanted to create a voice for the character of Mallory Cane that wasn't Carano's.  He apparently took lines and even singular words from multiple takes and mashed it together to form her audible dialogue.  I admit to being able to detect something was up with her voice during the film; it felt very ADR-heavy.  And this was before I knew about the voice alteration.  Some of this may factor into her stilted performance, but she did give these lines, after all.

And that's my main complaint with Haywire.  I absolutely loved everything else about it.  The story is simple enough yet has plenty of twists and shockers peppered throughout.  Mallory was set-up and betrayed by her employer and is on the run from hired killers.  The action bounces from Spain to England to here in the States.

The real star of the film is the action.  As I mentioned before, Soderbergh plays very well to Carano's strengths - kicking tons of ass.  The first scene of the film sees her attacked by Channing Tatum, only to have her utterly demolish him in a small-town diner.  There are plenty of these amazing moments spread out over the course of the film.  There is one particular chase scene that is just as good as anything seen in any of the Bourne or Bond films.

The action is visceral.  Raw.  Believable.  Evident throughout most of the film is the 1970s-style poppy soundtrack (also used in the Ocean's films and in The Informant!) that feels at times out of place for the world we're invited into.  This music is completely gone from all fistfights.  So is most of the audio.  Noises are toned down to accentuate the connecting punches, kicks, and environmental combat.  The punches in Haywire sound and look incredibly real.  As a matter of fact, most of the actors did their own stunts, including Carano and Michael Fassbender - who get into an INSANE hotel-room brawl.  Their choosing to do their own stunt-work made these intense brawls more believable than most films - and also meant that there weren't an overload of tight shots or quick-cut-editing.  The Bourne trilogy is known for kinetic, fast-cutting fight scenes.  Soderbergh keeps the camera back with wide shots, allowing us to appreciate the fight choreography in all its glory.

I must mention quickly that I loved pretty much everyone in this film.  Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Ewen McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Angarano were all great to watch.  For me, Fassbender can do no wrong.  Seeing him in this film, in the role he inhabits, I can most definitely see him stepping into the shoes of James Bond some day.  Ewen is always a joy to watch, even if he does have a terrible haircut.

I quite enjoyed Haywire.  Its a gritty, heavy-hitting action/spy/revenge action film with superb directing from Soderbergh.  Its got a light, airy quality to it at times which is rarely seen in films of these types.  His use of digital over film is quite evident; Haywire has a very vivid, clean, crisp look to it.  Its almost in contrast to the dirty, brutal fighting exhibited by Carano.  I hope that she has a good future in action films; I feel that we need more strong female leads (for action films) in Hollywood, that don't involve the Resident Evil or Underworld franchises.

Haywire is an entertaining, very well-made action thriller.

Bullet is out.

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