So Is Gina Carano The Next Big Action Star? She certainly has the acting chops for it.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two-and-a-half Jean Claude Van Dammes doing the splits out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Private security operative is betrayed, kills (almost) everybody.
Tagline: "They left her no choice."
Better Tagline: "More chokes than an Oklahoma BCS bowl game."
What Gives? I Thought You Were Excited About This Movie: I was. Believe me, as a long-suffering fan of the action movie subgenre, "People Repeatedly Kicking Each Other in the Skull," I've been waiting for America to give us a new face who could possibly contend with the likes of Tony Jaa and Donnie Yen. Will it be Carano? Maybe. Someday.
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Mallory Kane is the best she is at what she does (security contractor-for-hire), until she discovers she's been double-crossed and set up to take the fall. Piecing together the particulars, she has to work her way back through fellow agents (Channing Tatum), former State Department officials (Antonio Banderas) and her own boss (Ewan McGregor) to find out what's going on. And did I mention she kicks the hell out of a lot of people?
"Critical" Analysis: Haywire often feels like a mash-up of two different movies. Over here you've got a rather deliberate espionage thriller in the muted style (if not the intellect) of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with director Steve Soderbergh's signature touches and an eclectic score by David Holmes (who's scored several of Soderbergh's other movies). While over there is a more straightforward film about a stone badass leaving a trail of orthopedically disabled enemies in her wake.
The problem is, this particular combination feels like it was surgically attached by the doctor from The Human Centipede. Despite sharing screen time with her fellow principals, Carano just doesn't seem to be on the same page most of the time. Every scene in which the so-called plot is advanced plays like:
Coblenz: [Describes salient point that should elicit reaction from Kane.] Kane: [Raises eyebrow. Stares.]
Aaron: [Outlines consequences of disobeying her superior's orders.] Kane: [Licks lip. Raises eyebrows.]
And if Carano is punching above her weight class acting-wise (to coin a phrase), then the likes of Tatum and Michael Fassbender are laughably inadequate when trying to go toe-to-toe with Carano in the fight scenes. But it's a parasitic relationship: absent Carano, the movie lacks enough story to make it interesting. And on her own, she's not yet at the point where she can sustain any movie that isn't essentially a re-enactment of Ninja Gaiden.
So yeah, it's a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong, if they can get Carano a few classes at the Strasberg Institute, she might eventually be able to carry a movie without an A-list supporting cast around her. And it's indeed refreshing to see a woman who weighs more than 105 pounds (who isn't 50+ years old) getting the lead in a big Hollywood picture. Her fight scenes, and there are quite a few, are the most impressive I've seen in an American movie in some time.
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But as I've intimated before, there's nothing to the story. Kane tells her tale in flashack sequences to a young man whose car she's just "borrowed" after an abortive attempt to bring her in by fellow contractor Aaron (Tatum), but aside from a few red herrings and the revealing of the bad guys (the only surprise is who actually *isn't* a villain), I found myself thinking, "That's it?" when the full extent of the plot was laid out. Similar feelings welled up in the third act, which played out like Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs just ran out of ideas: "Okay, we'll have [bad guy] go for a walk on the beach in Mexico, and Kane pops up out of nowhere and kicks his ass. Then she'll just show up at the main villain's house. Roll credits."
Stylish as it is, Haywire isn't as smartly written as Out of Sight, and it isn't a lighthearted caper like Ocean's Eleven. I'd like to recommend it on the basis of Carano's skillz alone, but the remaining 80 minutes are just too dull.
Haywire is in theaters today. Seeing Channing Tatum get his ass handed to him is almost reason enough to buy a ticket.