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An action film directed by Steven Soderbergh

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A Lean, Mean Fighting Machine

  • Jan 28, 2012
Star Rating:

Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire takes an interesting and seldom used approach to the spy action thriller: It strips away all visual and thematic pretensions and simply plunges headfirst into pure adrenaline-pumping espionage. I’m hard pressed to say that the story is simple, and yet it’s clear to me that everything unnecessary has been left out, leaving only that which must be there for the sake of advancement. Although the fight sequences are highly choreographed and not at all within the realm of possibility, they’re mercifully spared the phoniness and posturing of macho stunt spectaculars and martial arts epics; every punch, kick, jab, slap, uppercut, and body slam is an exercise in simple, direct brutality. Here is a film in which all the fat has been trimmed. It’s a lean, mean fighting machine.

I can’t help but wonder how something so difficult to follow can still manage to be so engrossing. The film weaves a convoluted web of intrigue that spans nations, professions, personal relationships, and ranks. Keeping track of the details is next to impossible, and yet the story is told with such relentless speed and razor-sharp precision that watching it is nothing short of hypnotic. I was especially taken with its visual style, which is sparse yet surprisingly bold. And while I’m usually not the first to recognize violence as entertainment, I found myself absorbed in the fight sequences, probably because they aren’t as glorified as they would be in most Hollywood action films. In spite of their brevity, they’re incredibly kinetic, and they’re not dramatized with a pounding rock underscore. We only have the sounds of pounding flesh and breaking furniture.

It tells the story of Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), a trained marine and a contractor for a private firm, which the American government relies on for covert operations. We can tell from the opening shot that she’s on the run. At the start of the film, she arrives at a small diner in upstate New York, where she’s approached by a fellow contractor named Aaron (Channing Tatum). He asks her to go with him. She refuses. The scene immediately shifts from tense to exciting when the two start fighting in clear view of the public. Mallory wards Aaron off by breaking his arm, intervenes with a random customer named Scott (Michael Angarano), and apprehends his car. Despite his obvious shock, Mallory takes him with her and tells him her story thus far. For as yet unknown reasons, she has him memorize names and locations.

For the next forty minutes or so, the film intercuts between the car ride and two of Mallory’s covert missions. One is in Barcelona, where she and Aaron were hired to rescue a kidnapped a journalist named Jiang (Anthony Brandon Wong) and deliver him to their contact, Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). The other is in Dublin, where she and a British agent named Paul (Michael Fassbender) will pose as husband and wife and infiltrate the Rossborough House. I will not reveal the specifics of the latter mission. I will say that it leads to an unsettling turn of events: Mallory has been set up by her own firm, which, as fate would have it, is led by her ex-boyfriend, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). In the eyes of the American government, she’s now a fugitive. She spends the rest of the film solving the mystery behind the betrayal.

Along the way, we will also meet a government agent named Coblenz (Michael Douglas), who always seems to know more than he lets on, and Mallory’s father, John (Bill Paxton), a writer who lives in New Mexico and is well aware of her daughter’s profession. Rest assured, there will be plenty of hand-to-hand combat as the story progresses. There will even at one point by a chase on the streets, through the back alleys, and across the rooftops of Dublin, where Mallory moves with the stealth of an assassin as she’s being pursued by military men with guns. Although she lacks the mystique and solitary disposition of a samurai warrior, she is clearly an expert at what she does and is intensely focused even when under stress. She can’t possibly be emotionally walled off, for she cares for her father and was once in love with Kenneth. Having said that, she’s remarkably in control of her feelings and maintains an attitude of steely professionalism.

Much has been made of the casting of Gina Carano, mostly in regards to her experience as a mixed martial arts fighter and her appearance on the TV series American Gladiators. I agree that her physical strength gives the violent scenes in Haywire a certain authenticity. But let’s not short change her; she adds something to the film even when she isn’t fighting. In fact, let’s not short change anyone; all the actors in the film are well cast. I can’t pretend that I fully understood the plot, nor can I say that I was able to keep track of the details or even make sense of the reason Carano’s character was framed. But what the film lacked in clarity was more than made up for in spectacle, strength of character, excitement, and a very brisk pace (with a running time of just ninety-three minutes to boot).


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January 29, 2012
Yeah. We agree on this one. There wasn't really imaginative about its plot and I have to admit the core is pretty standard. I liked this one because of its structure and the action scenes were pretty good. Nice review.
January 30, 2012
I couldn't have said it better myself.
More Haywire (2012 film) reviews
review by . January 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Debut of The Real Female
Veteran director Steven Soderbergh may have given some people pause when they heard that he was making an action spy-thriller that seemed aimed to appease the mainstream viewer’s appetite for explosions, hard-hitting action and dumbed-down plotting. Well, it seems like the veteran filmmaker knew what he was doing when he teamed up with screen writer Lem Dobbs for their second collaboration after the hidden success of “The Limey”. “Haywire” stars MMA star Gina Carrano …
review by . May 31, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    A young woman enters a diner. She is Mallory Kane (Gina Carano). She is followed soon thereafter by a man named Aaron (Channing Tatum). They talk for a little bit, although he seems upset, and just when the drinks that they ordered are about to be delivered to their table, Aaron strikes Mallory; and the two are involved in hand-to-hand combat. Mallory breaks Aaron's wrist but is wounded in her arm. A kind young man (Michael Angarano) gives Mallory the chance …
review by . January 19, 2012
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Still a Knockout
HAYWIRE Written by Lem Dobbs Directed by Steven Soderbergh Starring Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum   Aaron: Is this your idea of relaxing? Wine and gun maintenance?   To a large extent, both on the surface and at its root, Steven Soderbergh’s latest caper, HAYWIRE, is nothing more than a filmic excuse to watch former “American Gladiator”, Gina Carano, beat the living crap out of a bunch of big, strapping men. On many levels, …
review by . January 17, 2012
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'Haywire' 'Two Jews On Film' Begin The Year Disagreeing Over Soderbergh's Spy Thriller (Video)
      I knew I was going to love 'Haywire' directed by Steven Soderbergh from the first scene.       A girl walks into a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere.   She sits down...blows on her hands to warm them.  The waitress takes her order.       A few seconds later, a man comes in, sits down opposite her.  They briefly chat...and then SUDDENLY...      It's wham...bam...pow-kick-punch....Trans …
review by . January 21, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Steven Sogerbergh has been talking about retiring from the film industry for some time now, that being said this is his 25th film in a little over 20 years. He has never done a movie involving so much fighting as he is usually known for his dark shots and dialogue heavy stories. He is still able to put his own spin on the genre and makes Haywire an enjoyable movie even if it leaves no long lasting impression.      Newcomer Gina Carano stars as a black ops agent seeking …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


  • Gina Carano as Mallory Kane in ``Haywire.''
  • Opened January 20, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 32 min.
  • R
    some violence
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says Iffy for 15+.
  • Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly trained operative for a government security contractor. Her missions take her to the world's most dangerous areas. After Mallory successfully frees a hostage journalist, she's betrayed and left for dead by someone in her own agency. Knowing her survival depends on learning the truth behind the double-cross, Mallory uses her black-ops training to set a trap. But when things go awry, Mallory knows she'll die unless she can turn the tables on her adversary.


  • Cast: Gina Carano, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Michael Angarano, Antonio Banderas, Mathieu Kassovitz
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Genres: Action/Adventure
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    Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
    Release Date: Jan. 20, 2012

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