Move over Evelyn Salt, there’s a new spy-girl in town and she takes no prisoners. My advice, don’t watch any trailers. I will try to avoid SPOILERS.
Upstate New York, a lone woman is crouched in a snow bank casing a diner. Her name is Mallory Kane (Gina Carrano), former marine and black-ops contractor, and she is about to enter into a meeting with her boss Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) which will spiral out of control. After the incident she escapes by taking the car of a nineteen-year-old named Scott (Michael Angarano) tells him the events that lead up to her present circumstances and the people who have betrayed her.
I love a good spy-thriller especially those in the vein of the Bourne trilogy and Haywire delivers the action in spades and with such ease due in part to Sodebergh’s skill behind the character and Carrano’s action skills on the screen.
While the film has a script built on a non-linear narrative full of flash-backs that peel back the different layers of mystery the biggest sensation is that the film has a breezy sensibility and it is clear that Sodebergh’s experience in making thrillers has given him a confidence and technical skill that makes the action whip along amusingly. Haywire exchanges the messy and vicious forward momentum given to the Bourne films’ by Greengrass’s documentary feel with a sleek style that feels essential with no frivolous elements. Panning cameras, mid shots and a jazz soundtrack mark exciting chases and are mixed with long shots for action scenes where the music drops out and the action is staged cleanly and clearly with no flashy editing so Carrano’s martial arts skills are put on display as she takes her male rivals apart.
There is a lot of male acting talent here but new-actress and martial artist Carrano more than holds her own. She has a presence that has a direct aggressiveness mixed in with likeability. She can be charming like Bond and devastating like Bourne and don’t think that because she is a woman she lacks killer-instinct because she is as cold and brutal as any guy and has the brains AND brawn to overcome them. One character asks her,
“Is this your idea of relaxing? Wine and gun maintenance?”
She is a professional and thanks to Carrano’s physical presence and martial arts skill you will walk away believing that she is an equal to Bourne and Bond. The initial set-piece in New York is the best. Channing Tatum and Gina Carrano go at it with such vehemence and I found it a shock partly because it is never easy to see a woman get struck but also because the whole thing is unexpected and packed full of realistic violence where the effects are turned up to 11 and as a result when she takes vicious blows you feel it.
That’s not to say that the guys are slouches. Paxton who play’s Mallory’s father mixes maternalism and military experience, Tatum is a likeable if bland bruiser and Fassbender proves effortlessly suave and able to do brute physicality. Banderas is wonderfully louche and McGregor and Douglas are slimy government ops types.
There is a lot of star power in this ensemble cast but Carrano muscles her way forward. The film ends on an ambiguous note with a lot of loose-ends for Mallory to tie up and I for one will sign up to see the sequel to see her tie them up.
Release Date: 18th January 2012 (UK)
Running Time: 101 mins
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carrano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Angarano