Frequently bathed in a sickly, yellow hue, Haywire contains some of the best hand to hand combat I’ve seen on film. Between the choreography and the sheer brutality of the violence, every punch, kick and smashed object felt incredibly real. The usual thriller conventions are on display throughout–betrayal, revenge and conspiracy seep through every frame. For the most part, director Steven Soderbergh doesn’t spoon-feed the plot to the audience, but Haywire is never difficult to follow.
During the climax, dialogue ceases for over twenty minutes as a number of fights and chases take place. The pace is relentless, only occasionally slowing down for the unneeded fast forward to the future during a car ride. Thankfully, those scenes are relatively short. The fun, jazzy (sometimes Bond-esque) soundtrack keeps things lively, as does the frequently shifting European scenery. It feels as if Soderbergh is having a lot of fun in this sandbox, and his one meta dialogue reference to Gina Carano being frequently rumored for Wonder Woman didn’t seem entirely out of place.
Haywire parades some of the handsomest actors of the last few decades without giving each of them significant screentime or all that much to do. Between Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor and Michael Fassbender, you’ve surely seen each of them in a better performance than what they give in Haywire. Gina Carano, a female MMA fighter, has to carry the bulk of the work and for a first time actress, she’s fine. Some of her delivery is a bit stilted, but she’s easily convincing as a physical badass.
For all of the great location filming, I was disappointed to find the denouement take place–like so many other films–on a beach. That being said, the manner in which the loose ends are tied up do not disappoint. Though Haywire was part of Soderbergh’s indie kick towards the end of his likely finished career, Haywire has franchise potential. If they were to ever explore that territory, I would hope that Carano could grow a bit as an actress.