When did you say you were going to retire, Steven?


2 stars



Director: Steven Soderbergh

Starring: Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender


Gina Carano in Haywire

Following on from the recent success of his A-list filled disaster movie, Contagion, director Steven Soderbergh returns to our screens with action- thriller Haywire.


Trailed by no small amount of buzz, thanks to a slick marketing campaign and the seemingly 'cool' casting of real-life mixed martial arts star, Gina Carano, Haywire arrives with the promise of being Soderbergh's most purely entertaining movie since his remake of Ocean's Eleven back in 2001.


Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the marketing people to fool you otherwise, Haywire suffers from the same problems that have marred Soderbergh's recent offerings.


Essentially a simple betrayal and revenge story, in typical fashion, the director decides to tell that tale in his trademarked, elliptical, fractured narrative style. But while that's a technique that's proved hugely effective on movies such as Out of Sight, Solaris and The Limey, here it just feels like a stylistic tic too far.


It also has the unfortunate effect of distancing the audience from the action on screen. That's fine when a director is dealing with more cerebral fare, a la Solaris or The Limey, but action filmmaking thrives on immediacy and emotional engagement, neither of which Haywire delivers in any significant form.


Some beach action in Haywire

However, more problematic for an action-thriller, is the total 'so-what' we feel about the things at stake for the characters who populate the film.


There's definitely a sense that Soderbergh is trying to say something about women in action films here, but this is not helped by either the style of the movie, the brevity of Lem Dobbs' screenplay or Carano's performance. A billion times better than Sasha Grey, the porn star whom Soderbergh cast as the lead in his escort picture, The Girlfriend Experience, nonetheless Carano isn't a particularly strong actress. Despite never being flat out awful, Carano is defiantly one-note and we never believe for a moment that Mallory Kane is a real person with any sort of inner life behind her eyes.


Again, this puts up a wall between audience and character that no amount of editing tricks or 'realistic' fight sequences can breach.


That said, Carano's performance isn't the worst in the film. That honour has to go to Ewan McGregor who gives a mannered and fussy performance as American security contractor, Kenneth. It's not as bad as former flatmate Jude Law's horrific turn as an Australian blogger in Contagion, but it's close.


Utterly unmemorable, yet charmingly inoffensive, in their brief roles are Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas, while the always superb Michael Fassbender is wasted in the role of duplicitous British agent, Paul.


Gina Carano gets physical in the bedroom

Surprisingly, the best performance in the film is by Channing Tatum. Long pigeonholed as just a pretty face, Tatum brings a tangible world-weariness and sadness to his role as fellow operative, Aaron, which augurs well for his future career.


Nicely scored by frequent collaborator David Holmes and beautifully shot by Soderbergh himself (under his Peter Andrews pseudonym), Haywire, nonetheless, has the air of a film put together by a top-class director on auto-pilot.


On this evidence, Soderbergh's upcoming 'retirement' is a wise decision.


James Peaty




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