Big Screen Peter: Haywire

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 123 views 

The irony of Mallory Kane's statement early in “Haywire” that she “doesn't like loose ends” never registers until the credits roll more than an hour later. As the theater goes black and you see Steven Soderbergh's name plastered on the screen, that gestating nugget comes full-circle: “Haywire” is one long fluttering loose end.

Conceptually, the movie is a sort of Jason Bourne meets Ocean 11. Soderbergh juxtaposes hepcat suspense music against a backdrop of covert action that not only eliminates “real sound” but acts as a postmodern wink at the suave origins of the espionage thriller. We get the soundtrack to Bond, but the ferocity of “Taken.”

Treated right, the disparity can make a film more tangible for an audience, welcoming them into the fold of un-reality while simultaneously allowing the brutal authenticity of the situations to flower.

“Haywire,” however, is maltreated, falling in neither circles of this imaginary Venn diagram.

The movie stars retired MMA fighter Gina Carano as the aforementioned Kane. A private contractor, she's part of a team hired by the U.S. government to rescue a dissident journalist being held captive in a Barcelona apartment. In an inventive twist, Kane is double-crossed and sold downriver by her conniving boss. Of course, that trite narrative ploy is one of the reprieves offered in Haywire: we don't have to spend 80 minutes waiting for the revelation. No, instead, the movie begins in media res and works its way through flashbacks to job(s) in question.

As you might gather, none of this — the story, the narrative method — is particularly original. Even the action sequences, though aesthetic, are excruciatingly contrived. The redemptive value of “Haywire” is Mallory Kane. Not Gina Carano, her acting is mediocre at best, but gives the idea of a strong female character. It certainly doesn't qualify the movie as a success by any definition. But with countless movies so irritatingly populated with vacuous female characters or filled with thinly-veiled misogyny, it was moderately refreshing to find a strong, iron-willed female character on display.

Was the concept well-handled by Soderbergh? Again, not especially. There are a few concessions at feminizing Kane by way of wine. That's better than pink handguns though, right?

Carano and “Haywire” are both better served when Kane is kicking ass. These set pieces are fast paced and quite engaging. It's the world outside these beautifully staged matches that drag “Haywire” down to the muck. At those moments, when the acting is barely sufferable and your faced with the dangling threads of a convoluted story, it's evident just how lacking “Haywire” is as a movie.

And then, when you catch yourself wondering exactly how she cornrowed her hair while on the run and the first streaks of sun fall across a gorgeous New Mexican landscape, the irony too dawns. As the excremental epithet escapes and the credits roll, Soderbergh brings us full circle.

Perhaps he, more than any of us, truly understands the movie editing aphorism brought to mind by the bookending vulgarities.

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