Friday, February 03, 2012

Reel Low: Haywire [2012]

Steven Soderbergh, a mere five months after Contagion came out, has given us yet another instant classic.

And it couldn't be more different than his previous effort.

Brutal slugfests in close quarters. Zig-zagging across rooftops. Gunfire in busy European streets. Shadowy betrayals. Off-road car chases in the snow. Showdowns on the beach.

Reminiscent of the action dramas of yore with its 70s-esque score and minimalist lighting deployed for much of the film, Haywire may be short on high-end acting performances, but doesn't lack for gruesome fisticuffs or thrilling action scenes.

Former MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano plays an elite operative for a private security organization regularly contracted out by the United States' government for sensitive missions. We are introduced to her already on the run after being double-crossed and destined for elimination by the people she had trusted. Much of Haywire is relayed to the audience in flashback, as she tells her story to a at-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time bystander (played by Michael Angarano who is now all growed up since I last took notice of him in the vastly underrated Sky High), after he has been swept into her predicament.

Carano doubles brilliantly as the unrelenting action star throughout Haywire, as well as the buxom starlet when called upon. However, disappointment lies in her acting, as she delivers far too many lines so flatly that even the likes of Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxon and Antonio Banderas weren't always able to salvage scenes completely. And that's not to mention the Carano/Channing Tatum tandem, which is... unfortunate.

However, Michael Fassbender, proving yet again he is simply operating on another plane than nearly all the rest of his fellow thespians right now, is so suave in every second he's on screen. Maybe I was just magnetized once more by his performance, but Carano's emotionless dialogue was not as noticeable in his scenes with her. I think even mid-60s Sean Connery would approve of what Fassbender has done this past year or so.

But these elements are merely the icing on a deliciously rich espionage plot loaded with fight and chase scenes that made my jaw drop at times.

I haven't watched all of the entries in Soderbergh's filmography yet, but Haywire reminds me of two of his previous endeavors in particular - The Limey and The Girlfriend Experience. While not as powerful of a revenge story as The Limey is, this film has a similarly escalating fury as it carries on, as well as some wonderfully exciting spurts of violence. Meanwhile, Carano's casting unmistakeably recalls Sasha Grey's in Girlfriend - Soderbergh gave both women their first crack at taking a staring turn in a mainstream movie - with mixed results in the final product. I think you can even toss in a bit of the vibe you get from parts of the Oceans series for comparison here too, just minus the fun those films refused to avoid; Haywire is all business.

Shit. This movie is awesome.
Oh, remember last week when I said The Grey was the first great movie of 2012? Although I went to see it just this past week, Haywire was released the week before, beating The Grey to theaters. Man, what a start to the year.