If you're a fan of spy movies with multiple foot chase scenes with retro jazzy music playing over them... man, I've got a film recommendation for you!
Haywire is a movie that when I saw the trailer months ago, I didn't even realize that it was a Steven Soderbergh film. But now that I've actually seen the finished product, I feel like there's no other way to refer to it as other than a Steven Soderbergh film. I don't mean that in the blatantly obvious way that he factually directed it, so that's clearly what it should be referred to. I mean I wouldn't just refer to Haywire as, say, an action film. I'd more refer to it a Soderbergh film. Because in the hands of a different director, Haywire could have been a COMPLETE disaster. With Soderbergh at the helm, though, it ends up not falling completely flat. But given that it's constantly riding the edge of good and bad even now, I'm still happy he was the director, as his vision gives this the kick it needs.
On a random side note, does Soderbergh remind anyone else of the Dean from Community?
Haywire was definitely on the darker, low-key side of his filmmaking though; as opposed to a comically fun style he's done in the past (Ocean's Eleven and such). He usually adds a distinct realism that I tend to enjoy, even if he doesn't quite get all the other elements in check. This is a similar issue I saw with Contagion, and was also one of the main reasons I disliked The Girlfriend Experience.
The big selling point of Haywire, at least so it seemed to me, is the fact that the lead protagonist is a real life mixed martial arts fighter, in addition to the fact that she's a very attractive lady. Genuinely tough women who are actually attractive are hard to come by in Hollywood. Take Michelle Rodriguez for example: gets all the "tough girl" action roles, considered pretty attractive by most (though, her eyes always look like they're half closed to me, I find it annoying) and you can tell she's not actually tough in real life. Maybe she could beat me up, but then again, I don't exercise. Same goes for Kate Beckinsale and Mila Jovovich. Hollywood tough. This lovely woman from Haywire, though (Gina Carano), is genuinely tough. Look her MMA fights up on YouTube. It's this kind of scary anger juxtaposed with her good looks that made it hard to take my eyes off her whenever she was doing something on screen, ranging from drinking a coffee to choking a dude out with her thighs (hummina hummina hummina).
While it was fun watching her fight it out with the guys (which, surprisingly, doesn't occur that frequently in the film), her skill as an actor is about on par with pornstar Sasha Grey from The Girlfriend Experience. If you're one of the many who haven't seen that film, I'm saying Sasha and Gina are both terrible actresses. Watching Gina act was rather painful. She spit out dialogue like a monotone robot. It sounded like the navigator voice on my GPS. Maybe that's what she meant to do for her rogue, emotionless character? I doubt it, though. Even her facial mannerisms and body language in the non-action scenes seemed rather amateur (perhaps because she is an amateur!). The performance was reminiscent of that of a student film, or a SyFy Channel movie. I don't want to rag on her that much because this is her first starring role, but I hope it gets better with time.
One thing that saved the film from Carano's bad acing was the supporting cast around her. This small little movie had a pretty awesome credit roll. The main villain was Ewan McGregor, who played it really toned down, which I actually liked. Michael Douglas and a fantastically bearded Antonio Banderas had small parts as higher ups in the system. Michael Fassbender (who is quickly climbing his way into my list of favorite actors) had a small, explosive role as another spy. Bill Paxton played Gina's father. Even Channing Tatum, who mumbles so incoherently throughout most of his films I wonder how he actually has a job where he has to say things on camera [oh yeah, the good looks...], surprisingly did a decent job for a change.
Still, I'm a little conflicted on whether or not I actually liked Haywire overall. On one hand, I actually appreciated the slow paced approach to this film. It had a pacing reminiscent (but not as good) as Drive. It had a non-linear plot structure similar (but not as good) as Kill Bill. In certain cases characters were even introduced with laid-back dialogue, building tension until an explosive action sequence. I even enjoyed the fact that the action sequences were so natural. No noticeable CGI or overblown effects. All of the punches and kicks even made small packing sounds, as opposed to cartoonish (yet awesome) Indiana Jones-style *PUNCH* noises. But I can't tell if it's actually trying to homage to older, slower-paced action films, or if it just worked out that way. There was also a very minimal story to work with. When the synopsis and the actual plot are of the same level of depth, there often tends to be problems. This results in a style vs. substance dilemma. Some movies can pull that off (like Drive!), but Haywire just didn't do it for me. It was *almost* there. Maybe the flaws just stuck too much for me. I'd watch another movie with Gina Carano beating people up in an evening gown in the future, but I assume she won't be pulling in Soderbergh level films in the near future. Or maybe she'll get an acting coach? IMDb says she'll next be in the Percy Jackson sequel. I assume that's minimal talking, and lots of her shooting lighting bolts out of her eyes or something. I don't really know, I'm not into that Percy Jackson crap.
I'd recommend Haywire to people, but I'd do it with a certain level of caution. It's more accessible than Drive, but it's in the same boat. If you want an action movie, it's not at all what a normal person would expect. Regardless of any of that, if you're looking to spend some money at the theater this weekend, and want my recommendation: for something I've seen, I think The Artist is getting wider release, go check that out. For what I'm going to see, and I'm already recommending it over Haywire based on the trailer/premise alone: The Grey. Liam Neeson fighting wolves > most things.
[Scott Roberts] "does Soderbergh remind anyone else of the Dean from Community?"
A little, but he really reminds me of the COW's own Mike Cohen.