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  Haywire Hell Hath No Fury
Year: 2011
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Stars: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Mathieu Kassovitz, Aaron Cohen, Anthony Brandon Wong, Julian Alcaraz, Eddie J. Hernandez, Maximino Arciniega, Natascha Berg
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Agent Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) sits in a diner and waits for her contact to show up, but when she sees who has arrived she utters one word under her breath: "Shit!" He slides into the booth across from her and starts asking her what is going on, orders a coffee then when he does not receive the answers he wants, knocks her to the ground and begins pummelling her. But Mallory can give as good as she gets, and soon has the upper hand in the fight, leaving Aaron (Channing Tatum) beaten as she is assisted by another patron, Scott (Michael Angarano) - but he doesn't know what he's getting into.

If you ever wanted to know what a Bourne movie would be like if cult director Steven Soderbergh had directed it, then take a look at Haywire, where for all the remote and distant quality it portrayed if you were patient you could appreciate a deadpan sense of humour underneath the almost impenetrable spy shenanigans that our heroine has to negotiate. That heroine being played by mixed martial arts champion Carano, who had proved herself an expert fighter and had caught the attention of Soderbergh who decided to cast her in another of his dabblings in genre, this time the action thriller, the sort which featured hand to hand combat.

Perhaps it was the ironic look askance at such things that Soderbergh and his writer Lem Dobbs took, but there was something definitely "other" about Haywire which had it not quite fitting in with the more conventional action flick audiences would be used to. Why does it take so much time between the setpieces, they might ask, or how could a woman take on so many men in martial arts and beat them so soundly? There's a James Bond style character played by Michael Fassbender who was obviously included to put such suave macho men in their place, except by the time this was being made Daniel Craig's Bond was not so suave at all, another example of this film's inherent off kilter tone.

Not that it was made blatant from first minute to last, but if you responded to it then you might have a better time with Haywire than the average fan who wanted meatheaded violence and lots of it. Yet that aspect was there, so it's not as if the director could be accused of leaving it out - this wasn't a Jim Jarmusch take on the genre, after all, and there were no extraneous jokes or bits of business to embellish a plot which could be summed up by "Female agent is framed and takes her revenge". If anything, it was very pure in its realisation, so much so that when Mallory's father (Bill Paxton) showed up he seemed like an unnecessary addition, as if we didn't need to know so much about her personal life.

Though even that had a perfunctory quality, as if the proceedings here distilled the basics of the spy thriller down to hotels, globe trotting, looking attractive under extreme circumstances, and those circumstances including beating the living daylights out of someone who wants to do the same to you. Carano was recruited for her fighting ability, but was able to look perfectly personable in a cocktail dress, even if her hands were like shovels and she had the build of a bruiser, but her acting was not put to the test, which was presumably why around her were a collection of male guest stars who had proven themselves elsewhere to varying degrees, and would provide celeb power for a film which had a star who was virtually unknown outside of the women's combat ring. Therefore Ewan McGregor was the double crosser, Michael Douglas was the boss who can only do so much, Antonio Banderas had a bushy beard, you get the idea. Not all of them fought Carano, but Haywire was apart from the conventional, even as it courted it. Groovy music by David Holmes.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Steven Soderbergh  (1963 - )

Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.

Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.

 
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