Since the creation of this blog - now into its third year active - I've always had a somewhat love/hate relationship with the works of Steven Soderbergh, from the reasonably stylish yet superficial The Girlfriend Experience to the extremely dull and detestable The Informant. For the most part his films of recent times have just seemed to lack the sheer fun shown in his much loved Ocean's 11 remake back in 2001. That is until Haywire came crashing out of nowhere...
Starring former MMA fighter Gina Carano, Haywire tells the story of freelance covert operative Mallory Kane as she seeks to find out why her own company double crossed her and left her for dead, after an operation in Barcelona. Her journey takes her to Dublin, up-state New York and all the way to New Mexico. Yeah I know what you're thinking, and please don't roll your eyes just yet and think, 'so far so Bourne Identity'.
Where Haywire sort of sets itself apart from being yet another Bourne knock off or lumped in with all the daft one woman wrecking machine movies usually starring Angelina Jolie is in the superior and refreshing atmosphere Soderbergh immerses the film in. Gone are the tense Han Zimmer-esque thundering scores seen in movies like The Dark Knight or Inception and in their place these jazzy electronic pieces from Belfast's own David Holmes which gives the film an almost neo-noir vibe which both works and makes the film a thoroughly enjoyable experience - not too dissimilar from spy thrillers of the 60s/70s like The Ipcress Files.
Combine that with a genuinely likeable performance from a leading lady whom you could genuinely believe could kick your ass, with little effort, in Gina Carano. There's echoes of Noomi Repace's rendition of Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in her character, except with a bit more charm and much less emotional baggage. With no real notable acting experience to speak of before Haywire, she impressed with how natural she presented herself when standing next to actors with more prestigious pedigrees, especially in the scenes she shared with Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas.
All the while Sorderbergh assembled a fantastic, A-List, ensemble of supporting male actors for Carano to play off. There's Ewan McGregor as her slimy boss/ex-boyfriend. Channing Tatum in probably in most mature role to date as Carano's colleague in the job which kicks the whole thing off. Michael Fassbender giving his best James Bond impersonation since probably X-Men: First Class. Just to complete this tidy things there's effortless performances from Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas as shady government officials as well as the underrated Bill Paxton as the woman's father.
There are aspects of the story which could've been expanded upon, but generally Lem Dobbs' screenplay is mysterious enough to keep you intrigued from beginning to end, while the general length of the film's running time of just over 90 minutes is just tidy enough not make you go looking for your watch. Despite its modest budget in comparison to its contemporaries Soderbergh shoots the film in a way that even makes Dublin look like an exotic location ripe for espionage, and this from a man who lives 100 or so miles up the road from it.
Gina Corano, the girl with no noticeable tattoos, goes toe-to-toe with some of Hollywood's finest male actors and floors all of them with a few swift blows. Haywire is an extremely enjoyable neo-noir spy thriller with a tidy low-key story and some of the most stylish action sequences I've seen in some time. A genuine surprise during a season where the cinema is crowded with films pushing for award-winning gold. Worth seeing and buying the soundtrack.
Haywire is in cinemas everywhere from January 20th 2012.