Courtesy of RELATIVITY MEDIA
From the very start of Steven Soderbergh’s newest action flick “Haywire,” it’s pretty obvious that all characters involved are neck deep in mayhem — and it takes 90 minutes to figure it exactly how deep they are.
It all starts off simply enough. Former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano (who inspired Soderbergh to make this film, after he saw one of her fights on television) stars as Mallory, who starts the movie in a lonely diner in upstate New York. Andrew (Channing Tatum, “Dear John”), a former partner of Mallory’s, joins her at the diner for a cup of coffee. Their conversation starts innocently enough, but in the blink of an eye, Mallory’s face is covered in that same hot coffee, Andrew is on the floor with a broken arm and she’s on the lamb with a really nice car stolen from an innocent bystander (Michael Angarano, “Almost Famous”).
“Haywire,” features an all-star cast of government agents, mercenaries and assassins. When government employee Coblenz (Michael Douglas, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”) hires Ewan McGregor’s (“Beginners”) Kenneth, a government contracted killer, to assassinate Mallory, it becomes clear all too quickly that the heroine is in hot water, the target of a conspiracy.
As the characters traverse most of the Western hemisphere, the film is steeped in wonderful depictions of the chillingly professional, awkward, paranoid atmosphere of life as an undercover agent. Nowhere else is that more delightfully clear than in the interactions between Mallory and Paul (Michael Fassbender,“X-Men: First Class”), a debonair double agent.
Among the star-studded cast is Antonio Banderas (“The Legend of Zorro”), whose true role in the plot is only known in the last few minutes. In the mean time, he’s pretty good at stroking that massive beard of his and not much else. Banderas is sadly missing from this film, and it would have been nice to see more screen time for the Spanish desperado.
“Haywire” as a whole does a marvelous job of keeping the audience engaged by wrapping the entire movie in mystery, thanks in no small part to screenwriter Lem Dobbs, who masterfully incorporates sparse dialogue with humor. Starting a plot halfway through is always risky business, and flashbacks seem to be one of Soderbergh’s favorite techniques.
The film is confusing enough to be intriguing but not so befuddling that it makes you lose interest. The audience and Scott are essentially one in the same: an unknowing civilian kidnapped and yanked along, barely keeping up with an already complex system gone haywire.
This movie will mess with your head a bit, and sometimes not in a good way. From the scene in the home of Mallory’s father (Bill Paxton from “Big Love”) onward, the relationships between the characters involved become even more convoluted. The final revelations make things more clear, but there are still some loose ends that were confusing and begged for a second viewing.
Nevertheless, “Haywire” shines. Purely epic fight scenes, choreographed by Jonathan Eusebio, J.J. Perry (who also has a cameo as a curiously talented henchman), Don Thai and Jon Valera are flawlessly executed. They’re swift, complex and varied. Carano (performing her own stunts) pulls out every trick in the book and puts on quite the fight performance with the help of a massive stunt crew 27 strong.
Beyond that, there’s not much else to say. Character development was limited, and there’s no real point to the film other than telling an interesting story in an interesting way.
It’s definitely worth seeing, but watch where you step: there are plenty of twists and turns before you leave happily wondering how the last hour and half went by so fast.