Friday, January 20, 2012

I Allowed Myself To Get Excited About Haywire And Rediscovered Utter Disappointment.

The Good: Acting
The Bad: No real plot, Terrible editing/direction, No real character development.
The Basics: Haywire is a surprisingly disappointing series of chases and fights that does not add up to much of anything.

Tonight, my wife and I had a date night for the first time in several weeks. She wanted to treat me to a movie and I actually put off the offer until this week. There was nothing in the local theaters that I wanted to see until this week, so we went to see Haywire tonight. Earlier today, the film got a boost in my mind when I learned that it was written by one of the writers of Dark City (reviewed here!), which is one of my favorite movies. After all of the advertisements for it, all I truly knew about Haywire was that the film had an amazing cast and it had something to do with spies.

Honestly, after seeing the film, that's pretty much all I know about the film. This was hardly one of Lem Dobbs' successes and one suspects that even Steven Soderbergh fans will be largely unimpressed by it. Haywire is basically a random collection of fight scenes and chase scenes held together by rather preposterous bits of plot exposition. And there is something appropriate about how the film opens and ends with the word "Shit."

And I went into the film excited, looking forward to the movie!

Mallory is sitting in a diner when she see Aaron coming. She knows Aaron from a mission she was on a few days prior in Barcelona and when he tries to force her to come with him, she breaks his arm and flees with a private citizen, a young man named Scott. As Scott and Mallory drive off to evade law enforcement, Mallory tells Scott her story.

Mallory worked with Aaron in Barcelona on a covert mission to rescue a captured whistleblower. Turning Jiang over to Rodrigo, Mallory thinks her work is done and she prepares to leave the company she executed contracts with. But her boss and former lover, Kenneth, has one last mission for her. The night Mallory returned from Barcelona, she is retasked to Dublin to meet with Paul. Paul quickly proves he cannot be trusted and when he tries to kill Mallory, Mallory manages to turn the tables on him. She contacts Kenneth's employer and tries to return home, searching for the truth as she goes.

I honestly wish that I had more to write about Haywire but this is one of those films that I am baffled was made based on the fact that there seem to be large gaps in the story that are filled with Mallory running or getting into an extended altercation. The running gets old and occupies several minutes of multiple scenes. Similarly, the fights are some of the most choreographed fights in recent cinema. The bigger problem with the fights is that director Steven Soderbergh does not cut the fight sequences very well. So, during at least two of the knock-down drag out fights, there are noticeably bad cuts where two takes were melded less than seamlessly. I'm talking, mid-kick the film cuts to another take!

Also bad is the sound editing. In addition to having background conversations that are inappropriately loud in some of the quiet scenes, some of the dialogue is seriously garbled. Channing Tatum, who plays Aaron, mumbles his way through virtually all of his lines. While I want to say that this robs the viewer of valuable information, that would imply that the movie is actually intended to be about an elaborate conspiracy in the spy community. In actuality, the conspiracy that links the scenes together is more of a pretense to make the film. The truth is, Haywire is just the a bunch of fights and chases that have a plot as an afterthought.

Sadly, the film is also similarly light on character development. What irked me almost instantly was that Michael Fassbender's Paul is characterized as a spy of the same caliber as Mallory. And yet, she is nowhere near as smart or cunning as Mallory. While Mallory utilizes the first opportunity he leaves his equipment around to spy on her new partner, Paul neither catches her intrusions, nor appears to execute any machinations of his own. Given that all these characters are supposed to exist in the same industry at the same high skill level, it is frustrating to see some of them playing on a completely different level. This does not make Mallory more heroic, it simply makes it seem like she is seriously more competent than her adversaries.

What Haywire does have is a decent cast and most of the acting is good, at the very least. Gina Carano is interesting and credibly fit as Mallory. She is eminently watchable as Mallory and she sells the action scenes fairly well. Michael Angarano plays Scott and there is some irony to his role in Haywire. The irony comes from the fact that Angarano plays a character virtually identical in characterization and mannerisms as Scott Speedman's character in Underworld (reviewed here!). Actually, the car chase sequence in Haywire reminded me strongly of a similar scene in Underworld and it has been years since I saw that movie!

The rest of the performances are very average with great actors like Michael Douglas, Antonio Bandaras and Ewan McGregor performing well within their established bounds. Michael Fassbender takes a serious step back in his rise to a-list by presenting a depressingly listless performance as Paul. Channing Tatum, similarly, does fine as a secret agent type, though we have seen him in a similar role before.

In the end, Haywire is nowhere near as good as its previews. Instead, this is a movie that feels like one long, boring trailer that drags out for full feature length

For other spy movies, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The Bourne Identity


For other film reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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