AFI Review: ‘Haywire’

"Haywire totally lives up to the promise of the Gina Carano and Steven Soderbergh’s abilities."

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

The Secret Screening of AFI Fest was Haywire, the highly anticipated action vehicle for MMA fighter Gina Carano, from director Steven Soderbergh. Haywire totally lives up to the promise of the fighter and the filmmaker’s abilities.

Carano has real screen presence. She’s awesome to watch in action, and unique as a movie character. She’s beautiful and I love the dark hair hanging over the cheeks, but she looks like she’s been in some fights, maybe had her nose smashed a few times and that’s awesome. She carries herself as a practical businesswoman not caught up in all the movie plot devices that require other heroes to act like idiots.

The fights are fantastic. She uses the wall and momentum for her leg grips. She uses the environment but not like a prop, just as a way to calculate her attack. We get to see Carano fight in an evening gown and choke a dude out. The fights are fair, so she gets hit too. Tables don’t break away, rather opponents roll over them and keep fighting. Against men in body armor, Carano herself is a better weapon than any gun.

It’s still a Soderbergh movie so it’s not wall to wall fights. The film revels in the espionage missions that got Mallory Kane (Carano) into this mess, like Out of Sight romantic danger. I normally hate the structure of flashing back to explain how the film got up to the beginning, but Soderbergh does it right. Also like a Soderbergh movie, there are lots of big stars in small sections of the movie.

Kane is really smart about finding out who betrayed her. It’s basically the standard “job gone wrong” plot but so much smarter than usual. It wasn’t a “last job.” Kane just wanted to take a vacation but did it for a colleague. And she knows what to do about a corrupt employer. It’s not all “I can’t believe this obviously shady person played by a big star in a supporting role turned out to be the bad guy!”

Then when Soderbergh goes into action mode, he’s awesome. Car chases are steady with long takes only showing the point of view from the car’s windshield. A gunfight happens in a single take. Gee, isn’t it cool how exciting a static shot with wonderfully composed action in it can be? The climax creates awesome out of such simple presentation, it’s indie basics as Hollywood blockbuster at work.