‘Haywire’ heroine has neither sugar nor spice
2.5 out of 4 stars
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender.
When you’re making a movie, getting all the individual details right is something that can take years to master. Yet, even when you’ve got all the elements in place, things can still go “Haywire.”
As a special contractor for the American government’s cloak and dagger operations, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is used to dealing with people trying to kill her. After a stressful mission to Spain that nearly costs her life, she’s hardly enthusiastic about jumping back into action.
But, her boss (Ewan McGregor), who also happens to be her ex, is insistent that she’s the only one who can handle the latest job brought to him by his contacts (Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas). Meeting with a British agent (Michael Fassbender) in Ireland and going undercover as his wife is an easy enough task.
Perhaps too easy.
Without warning, Mallory has a target on her back, and she is unsure who she can still trust. Trying to get out of her sticky situation and back on friendly ground, the only thing greater than her desire to stay alive is the desire to find and destroy those responsible for setting her up.
As a former star of “American Gladiators” and a hard-fighting name in the women’s mixed martial arts world, Carano kicks, punches and shoots like a force of nature. It’s rare when a professional athlete of any kind can successfully make a serious transition to drama, but she’s got considerable poise as a beautiful gal who can smash your nose into your brain without thinking twice.
How unfortunate for Fassbender and Channing Tatum that they make the mistake of thinking they can take her on in hand-to-hand combat. McGregor, Douglas and Banderas have cursory roles as the desk jockeys who make all the plans for her destruction behind her back, but obviously they don’t know who they’re dealing with here.
Given the miniscule amount of backstory on this seemingly indestructible operative, the audience might know even less than she does at the halfway point. Things start off with a cold opening, when Mallory saves/kidnaps a young man (Michael Angarano) in an out-of-the-way diner after former accomplice Tatum nearly kills her.
There’s little to be said for a full-bodied story here while she regales him with as much of her past as he needs to know, but the first part of show and tell is always more fun. Carano’s furious fists are put to good use as one of the few female action heroes whose fighting looks real.
Not to sound sexist, but how many times did the girls of “Charlie’s Angels” really have that tough a time fending off opponents? More often than not, male adversaries do little other than gape stupidly at the idea that a woman could overtake them.
Like Beatrix Kiddo of “Kill Bill,” Mallory actually takes more than a few pops to the face from guys who aren’t hesitant to break the kindergarten rule about not hitting girls. Even so, there are too few instances of her serving up knuckle sandwiches in her nuts and bolts style.
Steven Soderbergh’s direction is usually honed so that even if something isn’t happening onscreen, the stillness is still worth watching. Not so here, with everything dependent on Mallory’s combat prowess.
Considering the massive scale of Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” which has the deserved look of something that took a lot of effort, this feels more like something that was shot over the weekend.
The cerebral presentation of “Haywire” makes it intriguing, but that same meditative ambiance does it in before long. It’s inaccurate to call it boring, but it may not give you the thrills you expect.
If you’re already nodding off by the point where Fassbender deals a blow to the back of Carano’s skull, it’s unlikely you’ll get into it any later.