Director: Steven Soderbergh
Screenwriter: Lem Dobbs
Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas
Screened at: Dolby88, NYC, 1/17/12
Opens: January 20, 2012
Steven Soderbergh and I are in agreement that early James Bond pictures have been 007’s best, particularly “From Russia With Love.” With “Haywire,” which the director states is inspired by Bond, does not have cars with crazy exhausts and watches that can arrange explosions. A GPS and some sinister smart phones are about the only cool technology on display. But “Haywire” does not disappoint thanks to a kickass debut performance from Gina Carano, a martial arts champ trained for this film by Aaron Cohen of Israel’s special ops unit, which provides counter-terrorist training. With agents like Gina Carano’s character, Mallory Kane, we don’t wonder that the small Middle Eastern nation has successfully warded off major attempts at terror.
Gina Carano, who participates in Women’s Mixed Martial Arts specializing in Muay Thai (Thailand’s national sport which is a form of kickboxing), dominates the feature as a woman who, as one male character states need not to be thought of as a woman. She is an operative with a private contracting company with a new mission to rescue a Chinese dissident journalist (Anthony Brandon Wong) being held hostage. Filled with flashbacks and scene changes, the movie opens strikingly in a New Mexico coffee shop where an old friend and lover involved in secret goings-on tries to convince her to leave with him by car. Mallory trust nobody, however, her antennas generally proving spot-on as she dispenses with Aaron in the first of a series of martial arts exploits that avoid the quick-editing so common in violent films. As Mallory relates to Scott (Michael Anganaro), in whose car she and Scott drive off, she has employed a choke-hold put upon Paul (Michael Fassbender), one such agent who has lost her trust, an assassination with a gun muffled by a pillow across her opponent’s head, and one shot in the stomach of an enemy, an anticipated drowning by yet another, who had been chased by Mallory until he falls helplessly at the ocean’s border between a pair of sharp rocks.
In time we learn why Kenneth (Ewan McGregory), her principal contact, has sold her out, as well as the machinations of the principal executive, Coblenz (Michael Douglas, who else?), one Studer (Mathieu Kassovitz), who is in on the sellout for the money he would acquire, and Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), who plots with Studer to put a figurative knife in Mallory’s back. Bill Paxton is featured as Mallory’s proud and kindly dad, John Kane, a best-selling author with a New Mexico house to-die-for.
The fight scenes have been expertly choreographed by J.J. Perry, a fifth-degree black belt, filmed with a 4K Red One camerain Barcelona, New Mexico, Dublin and the Irish countryside by Peter Andrews (actually Soderbergh himself), written by “Limey” scripter Lem Dobbs, on whom Soderbergh has relied with the one exception of “Kafka” which the director re-wrote himself.
One reservation: the explanation behind Mallory’s sell-out comes near the conclusion but one might have to be a rocket scientist to understand this. A second viewing might be advised, which cannot hurt the movie’s box office.
Rated R. 92 minutes (c) 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – A-