By: Lawrence Foster
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
“Haywire’s” “cover” appeared average, at best, at first glance. It features a former MMA fighter, Gina Carano, who admitted in a Sports Illustrated interview that she didn’t have any acting training before the film began shooting.
It has an ensemble cast of Hollywood heavyweights like Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas, but recent ensemble casts like “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” have fallen flat.
The story is about espionage, double-crosses and everything else you would expect from this genre.
Turn the cover on “Haywire,” however, and you will find a movie that is vastly superior to the sum of its parts.
“Haywire” is about Mallory (Carano) who works for a company that takes contracts from the U.S. government to do things like rescue hostages, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The movie starts with Mallory presumably on the run in upstate New York. Seeking refuge, she goes into a mom-and-pop diner where after a few minutes a colleague shows up. It becomes obvious that Mallory’s acquaintance Aaron (Channing Tatum) isn’t there for a cup of joe.
The duo starts talking about past events that happened in Barcelona and Dublin. We find out that Aaron is there to take Mallory back to “headquarters,” but she will not go quietly and, in the middle of the diner, they break out into a fight.
That is when I realized “Haywire” is an awesome movie. Having a female lead who can more than carry her own against men isn’t anything new. Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie have been doing that for a long time, but with this film, Carano becomes the unquestioned leader in the women kicking major you-know-what category.
After the brawl, which Mallory wins with an assist going to a diner named Scott (Michael Angarano), she takes Scott’s car and Scott, and begins to go through all the events that led to the diner. Mallory tells Scott all of the information so that after she is captured, he can go to the authorities and tell them what happened.
A majority of the film is a flashback of the events in Barcelona and Dublin. During the flashbacks the audience finds out that Mallory was betrayed, but the question is who did it?
It could be a number of people. Is it her former lover and boss Kenneth (McGregor)? How about the sketchy Spaniard Rodrigo (Banderas)? Or could it be businessman Coblenz (Douglas)? I obviously won’t spoil it for you, but it will keep you guessing.
What really stuck out about “Haywire” was the use of Carano. So often when an athlete with Carano’s background enters the acting realm, it is in a brainless beat-’em-up. That couldn’t be further from the truth in this case. The fight scenes are the best I have ever watched and go exactly as I imagine it would in real life. The fights go back and forth and Carano’s athletic ability lends a realism to the fights that is normally lacking in Jovovich and Jolie’s movies.
Also, director Steven Soderbergh did a great job not making Carano use her green acting chops. Instead, her dialogue was minimal and when the story called for “big-time” acting, it was handled by seasoned veterans like McGregor, Banderas and Douglas.
My only complaint with the film is that there aren’t enough fights, but that really speaks to Carano’s performance in the fights more than a lack of anything from the script.
“Haywire” is easily the best action movie with a female lead I have watched. From a narrative that keeps you guessing, to amazing action sequences, “Haywire” delivers in every way.