Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Gina Carano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Angarano
Espionage action thrillers have failed to hold viewers captive in recent years, as many of the genre’s recent entries have only served as platforms for the most memorable stunts by the male leads. Once again, Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh was unafraid to push the limits of filmmaking by crafting a realistic female character-driven spy movie. ‘Haywire’ proves that women can be just as effective as men in any job they set out to do.
‘Haywire’ follows highly trained operative Mallory Kane (played by Gina Carano), who works as a highly-trained black-ops specialist for a government security contractor across the world. After helping rescue Jiang (portrayed by Anthony Brandon Wong), a Chinese journalist being held hostage in Barcelona, she later discovers he’s been murdered. The evidence suggests that Mallory is the prime suspect, and skilled assassins are tracking her every move.
Upon arriving back in the U.S., Mallory takes an innocent bystander, Scott (played by Michael Angarano), hostage as she tries to escape those on her trail. While trying to clear her name, she also tries to figure out who crossed her. The list includes Mallory’s deceitful long-time boss and lover, Kenneth (portrayed by Ewan McGregor); Rodrigo (played by Antonio Banderas), one of Kenneth’s contacts; Aaron (portrayed by Channing Tatum), a fellow operative who helped rescue Jiang; or Paul (played by Michael Fassbender), with whom she worked on trying to bring down one of Kenneth’s other contacts, Studer (portrayed by Mathieu Kassovitz), who is believed to have helped have Jiang killed. Left with few options, Mallory comes to realize the only person she can trust to help clear her name is her father (played by Bill Paxton).
Soderbergh crafted another intense, intriguing action thriller with ‘Haywire.’ Modeling the film in the fashion of the original James Bond screen adaptations, ‘Haywire’ forgoes solely concentrating on the extensive fight sequences between Mallory and her new enemies. The filmmaker succeeded in his goal of creating a storyline that equally balances explaining the motivations of the characters and the fighting they engage in in order to defend themselves.
Soderbergh made a bold decision in making ‘Haywire’s protagonist a woman, given that men are more generally believed to be better fighters and more capable of physically defending themselves. But featuring Mallory as the lead character, and showcasing her determination in seeking the truth and justice of who truly murdered Jiang, helped propel the conflict between her and her fellow operatives. While Mallory is ultimately the only true female character in the film, her ambition to function in a male-dominated world proves that women can succeed in areas where they were once shunned from.
Carano was the perfect choice to play the motivated, successful Mallory. The actress, who is making her American feature film debut in ‘Haywire,’ is a mixed martial arts champion, and has mastered a demanding combination of fighting styles, including Karate, wrestling and boxing. As a result, she had a natural ability to perform the deadly physical combat Soderbergh envisioned for the film. This knowledge of fighting helped Carano understand Mallory’s motivations and mindset of wanting to defeat anyone she could to find the truth.
Mallory’s difficult and brilliant fight sequences benefited from Carano being able to perform most of her stunts. Using her own fighting styles gave the stunts a realistic edge, and they don’t make viewers feel they were too dangerous or couldn’t be performed. Soderbergh clearly designed the action sequences for ‘Haywire’ around Carano’s skills and abilities, and capitalized on her strengths.
Carano showed her desire in preparing to play Mallory by taking additional intensive psychical training with ‘Haywire’s technical advisor, Aaron Choen. He’s familiar with the operative world today, as he’s also a security expert who spent three years in Israel’s special operations undercover unit. He helped the actress train for the role, and helped her understand her character’s mindset. He put her through the training real operatives go through, including bootcamp and gun instruction, which made the fight sequences powerful and believable.
While Soderbergh crafted a memorizing female operative, who Carano realistically portrayed, screenwriter Lem Dobbs unfortunately failed to create a coherent storyline. ‘Haywire’ features many different characters working on the same case as Mallory, but the actual driving force behind why she’s being targeted is never clearly explained. The film could have been more cohesive if one of the operatives truly explained why she was being targeted as a suspect in connection with Jiang’s murder.
Soderbergh crafted an intriguing, thrilling look into the common happenings of the U.S. special operatives, particularly women who have to prove their physical worth to their male counterparts. While Carano is making her feature film debut in America with ‘Haywire,’ she used her mix martial arts experience and her training with Cohen to memorably craft a lead character who isn’t afraid to go after what she wants and needs.
Written by: Karen Benardello