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Haywire


The spy who loved me ... and kicked my ass.

Rod Lott May 4th, 2012

Can Steven Soderbergh do a martial arts-fueled action thriller? That was rhetorical in a bear-crap way; the guy can do anything. Best known for Traffic and the Ocean's Eleven franchise, he's a director par excellence, even when the story goes to snuff in his experimental larks, like casting porn star Sasha Grey as the lead in 2009’s no-budget drama The Girlfriend Experience.

haywire

Similarly, he's now built a movie around MMA fighter Gina Carano. The difference is that Haywire is no throwaway, for-the-fun-of-it flick, but a legitimate art film and literate espionage vehicle.

Double-crossed in a Barcelona job, "company" agent Mallory Kane (Carano) finds herself set up — by her boss and lover, no less (Ewan McGregor, Beginners) — to be killed in Dublin by the man who's supposed to be on her side (Michael Fassbender, Shame).

He's not the only one after her, begetting one hell of a cat-and-mouse game — one completely misunderstood by the moviegoing public. Haywire is not wish-fulfillment shenanigans like James Bond driving an invisible car (see: Die Another Day, or don't, actually); it's comparatively grounded in reality. Foot pursuits play out in real time; punches and kicks land without the accompaniment of some sound guy pushing the "oof" button for added effect.

As with Contagion — last year's virus thriller that Soderbergh front-loaded with an A-list cast, but shrewdly delivered Outbreak’s opposite — Haywire also toys with and subverts your expectations of what you think a spy adventure should and should not be. To me, going out on a limb is more pleasurable than scaling the same trunk.

Working from a script by three-time collaborator Lem Dobbs (The Limey, Kafka), Soderbergh indulges in stylistic tricks that buff out any potential shine, lending an overcast grittiness to a plot that calls for it. And it still looks and plays fantastic — and sounds it, too, thanks to David Holmes’ ice-cool score.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray houses behind-the-scenes footage that reveals how much of the real deal Carano is as a fighter (and also how radically Soderbergh electronically altered her voice’s pitch for his film). I sure wouldn’t mess with her. But I would gladly watch her in another movie. Her acting talents may be limited, but one could say the same thing about Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Statham and all those other guys. —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Contagion Blu-ray review 
Shame Blu-ray review 

 
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