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Monday, January 23, 2012

Haywire

HAYWIRE

** SPOILERS **

Haywire goes haywire the very second MMA fighter and star Gina Carano starts speaking. Director Steven Soderbergh attempts to transform her into a female James Bond action hero, banking on Carano's vaunted real-life mixed martial arts skills to solidify her as an action goddess, but Soderbergh appallingly miscalculates Carano's ability to utter dialogue with any consistency. Soderbergh surrounds Carano with tried and true actors: Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, and Antonio Banderas, all of whom scratch their heads trying to make heads or tails of the bewildering plot, all in silent agreement that they really couldn't care less either way. In a nutshell, Carano is a former Marine turned special operative contracted to rescue a rogue Chinese journalist, but she is betrayed and must discover why. For half the movie, she explains all of this in a car to a teenage boy she more or less abducts, as she evades McGregor's agents who wish her dead. Haywire globe-hops in the best Bond tradition, zipping across locales like Dublin, Barcelona, and Washington DC, all color-coded in the best Soderbergh tradition. In Dublin, Michael Fassbender seems almost embarrassed as the Bond-like agent who is ordered to dispatch Carano, only to lose a cage match with her in their penthouse suite and finds his face stuffed under a pillow while she pops a cap in his head. Better to hide his red face from embarrassment. As an action picture, Haywire is shockingly stingy with the action; it's overloaded with droning conversations where everyone is constantly explaining everything to each other. The bursts of action, some of it certainly cool, like when Carano bounces horizontally off a wall to subdue a bad guy or snaps arms MMA-style, don't come often enough. If Haywire were structured like the second and third Bourne movies, where Jason Bourne was perpetually in motion and rarely spoke, Haywire might have been better off. Letting Carano's physicality, instead of her mouth, do all of the talking would only have improved matters. Instead, Carano speaks constantly. You've never heard such line readings before. As a lead actress, Carano is a rigid MMA fembot, a walking, talking, jumping, shooting, fighting black hole of empathy, displaying a stunning lack of chemistry with any of the other actors. Even Channing Tatum runs circles around her when he emotes. In the Haywire bad acting triathalon, the best performance is by Bill Paxton, who plays the role of Carano's elderly father as if he'd just woken up from a nap and would prefer to tuck back into bed. 

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