Movie Review: Haywire
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
It doesn't take much time for mixed martial-arts champion Gina Carano to show us that she's a scary woman in "Haywire."
As the special operations agent Mallory, she's sitting in a diner, drinking coffee and obviously waiting for someone when Aaron (Channing Tatum) walks in. He wasn't the guy she was expecting. And she won't follow his orders to get in the car with him. He thinks he can force her.
The ensuing knock-down-drag-out fight in the middle of the restaurant ends with Aaron lying battered on the floor and Mallory commandeering a car owned by one of the diners, Scott (Michael Angarano), who's in the passenger seat.
In a movie reminiscent of the early James Bond days, director Steven Soderbergh focuses on developing the Mallory character as a special agent who's worthy of a sequel. That prospect, of course, depends on how well "Haywire" plays at the box office.
If it flops, it won't be the fault of Carano, who's making her feature film debut. Although limited in acting ability, she is mesmerizing in the action sequences, where she takes plenty of beatings and somehow survives. For many movie-goers, the man-on-woman violence will be unsettling. But like Angelina Jolie in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "Salt," Carano can take care of herself.
We begin to learn about Mallory as she explains her past to her clueless passenger/hostage as they flee the restaurant.
It turns out that she has been on the run, apparently having been betrayed after a special mission in Barcelona, where she thought she was rescuing a Chinese dissident from kidnappers.
It's unclear who framed her. It could be her boss and ex-lover, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), who's a government contractor for special operations. It could be the mysterious Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), who presumably hired Kenneth and his team to free the hostage.
The screenplay by Lem Dobbs of 1999's "The Limey" has so many twists and turns that it becomes hard to keep up. But it's clear that someone wants Mallory dead. She figured that out on a mission to Dublin, where she met a new colleague, Paul (Michael Fassbender).
Now she's back in the United States, where she is trailed by all sorts of police and potential assassins and is hoping to make it back home to her father (Bill Paxton), a thriller writer who lives in New Mexico.
Soderbergh has assembled an impressive supporting cast, from Fassbender to McGregor — and even Michael Douglas has a small role as a shadowy government officer. But some of the supporting characters are way underdeveloped, and some of the plotting is downright confusing.
Perhaps that's the way Soderbergh wanted it — turning "Haywire" into a maze that keeps leading to surprising places. But it's not at all clear that movie-goers will find the twists as fascinating as Soderbergh does.