Today: February 22, 2024
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Haywire

Working for a freelance security company that’s essentially a deniable CIA-front, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly-trained, covert black ops specialist; she does the dirty jobs the US government doesn’t like to admit to, off the books and on the quiet.

Working for a freelance security company that’s essentially
a deniable CIA-front, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly-trained, covert
black ops specialist; she does the dirty jobs the US government doesn’t like to
admit to, off the books and on the quiet.

After
successfully rescuing a Chinese dissident journalist being held hostage in
Barcelona, she’s looking forward to a well-deserved rest when boss and
ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor)
asks her to do one last little job for him. Nothing too difficult.
Practically a paid holiday.
All she has to do is go to Dublin and play trophy wife to a smooth
British MI6 officer Paul (Michael “Grrr”
Fassbender
) at a party where he’s trying to get next to a shady
international fixer (Mathieu Kassovitz).

But when the
suave Paul turns on her and tries to kill her, Mallory finds herself out in the
cold, framed for murder and hunted by her own people. On the run, she’s forced to fall back on her own deadly
skills to survive as she hunts her betrayers and tries to clear her name.

Almost a
throwback to paranoid 70s spy thrillers like Three Days Of The Condor and The
Killer Elite
(the Peckinpah
movie not the recent Statham-starrer), whose plot it filches, Haywire is an action-packed,
globe-trotting, Bourne-style romp.
The story holds few surprises, is merely an excuse to string together a
series of brutally intense, hyper-kinetic fight scenes full of painful snappy
noises and breathless, propulsive chases, one sequence in particular, a chase
across the rooftops of Dublin, the equal of Bourne or Bond, Carano’s Mallory forced to improvise and use her environment
to evade a machinegun-packing SWAT team.
Soderbergh brings his usual
clinical coolness to the spy genre, Haywire at times verging on an exercise in
style over substance, the surface gloss and sheer dynamic drive of the plot,
eclipsing the lightness of the characterisation.

But who needs
characterisation when you have a cast this fantastic? Michael Fassbender again proves just why he should be Bond,
delivering a suave, dashing secret agent who in the blink of an eye switches
into ice-cold killer mode. Ewan
McGregor thankfully keeps it in his pants for a change, his nervy, weasly
Kenneth a duplicitous bureaucrat who kills with a phone call rather than a gun.
Michael Douglas brings gravitas
while Antonio Banderas brings a
world-weary charm and roguish twinkle to their roles as career spooks and Bill Paxton is suitably moral and
upright as the only man Mallory can truly trust; her father, a former marine
turned military author. Most
surprising perhaps however is G.I. Joe
Channing Tatum, who, as Mallory’s
former comrade and occasional booty call Aaron, takes part in the first of the
film’s many bone-crunching, kinetic fight scenes as he and Carano battle it out
in the booth of a small-town diner.
Chiseled and pretty, Tatum stays just the right side of ambiguous, his
confident, douche-bag jock persona masking a consummate professional who’s just
doing what he’s told. Every member
of the cast is note-perfect and, like last year’s Contagion which was also shockingly light on character, Soderbergh
has cast actors who bring to their roles the baggage of past performances,
supplying their own back stories.

The film
however not only relies upon but is built upon the strong shoulders of mixed
martial artist and former American
Gladiator
Gina Carano who is
simply stunning. As at home in an evening gown as she is beating the crap
out of her male co-stars, she has real screen presence and an ease in front of
the camera that belies the fact it’s her first major screen role.
Obviously she’s great in the action scenes which showcase her MMA skills
but it’s the quieter moments that surprise and there’s echoes of Soderbergh’s Out of Sight in the father/daughter
relationship between Gina Carano and Bill Paxton which brings to mind that
film’s Jenny from the Block and Dennis Farina. Tough, sexy and assured, Carano gives a
star-making performance, announcing to cinema’s tough guys that their days are
numbered.

Now somebody
please put this woman in a film with Jason
Statham
. Watching those two
duke it out would be the guiltiest of guilty pleasures…

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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