d. Steven Soderberg, 2011
I would definitely site Stephen Soderbergh as one of my favourite film directors, but as I look through his repertoire, I notice that I've not watched one of his films since 2009's The Informant, and before that, 2006's the Good German. I'm woefully derelict in my fandom. I've missed some big pieces: Che, Contagion, and Magic Mike, not to forget the recent HBO Liberace biopic Behind the Candleabra. Given these rather prominent features, Haywire seems like a minor work, one of his of-a-whim productions that combines the impetus for The Girlfriend Experience with the somewhat murderous mood of The Limey, but it's doubtless a Soderberg piece.
The director took inspiration after seeing MMA champion fighter Gina Carano rise in the sport, noticing both her ferocity and attractiveness, and decided to frame an espionage-based film around her. Carano's character, Mallory Kane, is an ex-special forces agent working for a black ops contractor, but finds herself betrayed by her employer, set-up for a politically sensitive kill, and targeted herself for termination. Joining Carano on the peripherals is an incredible supporting cast in Ewen McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Channing Tatum, all in small but pivotal roles.
The story is fairly straightforward but assembled in a jumbled fashion so as to add a bit more intrigue and allow some of the reveals to unfold in a less conventional manner, but it's really a story constructed to showcase Carano, looking both deadly and stylish, and moreover highlighting her formidable fighting prowess. The sequences are expertly framed to show their movement and physical punishment, a stark and intentional contrast to the quick cutting of Greengrass' Bourne movies, and they're choreographed in a logical manner to imply that for someone of Mallory Kane's size to take on men with 20 to 60 pounds on her, not to mention added reach and height, she has to work quite a bit harder and take a few more lumps to come out on top. Carano's acting is certainly serviceable, better than anticipated, even, while the film makes a concerted effort to minimize her necessary lines, she physically handles the focused screentime with ease. She has a definite presence and charm, but time will tell whether she becomes a major action movie presence or b-movie, direct-to-on-demand star.