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DVD Released: 5/1/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/2/2012
One of my favorite moments from Legally Blonde occurs when Victor Garber says of Elle Woods, "Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, 'I think I'll go to law school.'" I've often wondered if this is how Steven Soderbergh approaches his movies, as he jumps from one genre to another with no discernible pattern. He's gone beyond being diverse and become a filmmaker who appears to have a genre checklist which he's burning through, often at the rate of two movies a years. Well, he apparently reached "spy movie" on his list and we are left with Haywire.
Haywire tells the story of Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), a special operative who works in the private sector. Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) arranges for her to work a job in Barcelona where the goal is to rescue a scientist. Working with a team which includes Aaron (Channing Tatum), the operation goes off as planned. Mallory then goes to Dublin to work a job with Paul (Michael Fassbender), but things quickly go awry and she realizes that Kenneth has set her up. She makes her way back to the United States, and with the help of her father, John (Bill Paxton), she devises a plan to get her revenge.
I actually wrote the introduction to this review before watching the extra features on this DVD. Imagine my surprise when Soderbergh admitted that was watching MMA on television, saw Gina Carano and thought, "Someone should build a movie around her." No, Mr. Soderbergh, someone should build a movie around a decent script. So, this is very similar to what he did withThe Girlfriend Experience, where he made a movie for porn star Sasha Grey. Resembling a star vehicle which has been constructed for someone who isn't a star, it quickly becomes clear that Haywire's sole purpose is to show off Carano's fighting ability. The movie actually opens with one of the three long fight scenes which we get in the movie. Soderbergh seems to be obsessed with this and two of them begin without warning and they contain no music -- just the fighting. Soderbergh has made some movies with violence, but he's not exactly an action guy, so his approach to the material is somewhat interesting. But, this doesn't keep the fights from feeling repetitive. However, Soderbergh canít resist being arty and he shoots one action scene in nearly total darkness. (I also liked his approach to a car chase scene.)
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is an incredible bore. Veteran screenwriter Lem Dobbs (The Hard Way, The Limey) hasn't done the movie any favors by creating an incredibly lackluster script. The dialogue scenes are mind-numbingly boring and I still can't believe that Soderbergh chose to follow the opening fight scene with one in which Kenneth negotiates Mallory's salary (?!). Nothing says excitement like a business meeting. The plot is never interesting and Soderbergh treats the twist at the end as if the movie were something like The Sixth Sense, as he goes back to explain how everything happened. If we can't follow a simply double-cross, then we shouldn't be watching the movie. The dialogue is so overly technical that it sound silly at times. The script's biggest problem is the lack of character development. From the outset, Haywire wants us to care about Mallory, but I never felt that we got to know her at all.
Soderbergh described how he came up with the movie, but that doesn't explain how he was able to lure such an all-star cast to this wafer-thin movie. In addition to the actors listed above, we also get Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Angarano. Did they just want to work with Soderbergh or did they see something in the script which didn't make it to the screen? And then we have MMA fighter turned actress Gina Carano. She obviously excels at the action scenes, but she also struggles with the dialogue and the emoting. She's not awful, but it was apparent that she was focusing more on "acting" than being a character. Haywire bears a resemblance toColombiana, which came out earlier this year. But, at least that movie knew that it was simply an action movie. Haywire rolls out itís A-list cast to hide itís utter lack of heart.
Haywire makes getting to New Mexico seem really easy on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing little grain and no defects from the source material. Soderberghís movies are usually grainy, but he actually avoids that look here, although the movie does transition to black and white at times. The colors look good and the image is never overly bright -- but the dark scene is really dark. The image is never notably soft and I didnít see any overt artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would expect, the track really comes to life during the action scenes and we are treated to some nice stereo and surround effects. During the fight scenes, the punches are accentuated by the subwoofer.
The Haywire DVD contains only two extras. "Gina Carano in Training" (16 minutes) contains an interview with Carano and contains footage from her MMA fights. We also get some footage from a screening in which Soderbergh describes the very simplistic origin of the movie. The piece then turns to Carano's weapons and fighting training, and we see a wealth of rehearsal and training footage. Things then move to the set to show how the training was utilized...where we see Michael Fassbender being beaten to a pulp. "The Men of Haywire" (5 minutes) features comments from Fassbender, McGregor, Tatum, and Antonio Banderas, who talk about their experiences on the film.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long