I dig Steven Soderbergh. I’ve seen every one of his films, listened to every director’s commentary he’s recorded, driven absurd distances to sit in on lectures he’s given, and so on. I love the overall composition of his films, from his choice of fonts (which he spends days mulling over), his varied use of lenses and filters, his penchant for non-linear storytelling – I love it all. And while he’s made some less-than-mediocre films, I’d spend two hours watching a Soderbergh flick that documents the complexities of the phone book. If his name is on it, I’m seeing it.
Lucky for me (and everyone, really) his new Haywire is pure Soderberghian bliss. It’s his first all-out action film, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from an auteur capable of remarkable flare and unparalleled restraint. It’s the kind of action flick where the fight scenes are viewed in medium shot, by a mostly unmoving camera, and void of the distractions of lambasting music and exaggerated sound effects. The man shoots (and synchs) fights exactly how fights look and sound. Now, tell me, when the hell was the last time you saw a movie do that? The Bourne Identity this is not.
In Haywire, Mallory (ex-MMA fighter Gina Carano, in a deeply controlled debut) is a Special Ops asskicker on the run from the people she used to work for. Why her former employers want her dead is initially, purposefully lost on us – it’s how they go about silencing her that makes for such compelling cinema.
Now, this being a Lem Dobbs-scripted Soderbergh flick (the two recorded the most infamous director’s commentary of all time for The Limey, the execution of which they disagreed on, to put it kindly), the content is complicated and deliberate. Attention is demanded, names must be remembered, and notions of plot holes are to be ignored. If the film holds something back, it’s because Soderbergh and Co. want it held back. My point is, Haywire is a tad bit ingenious in its storytelling, and to ruin that here would be cruel.
I will say that throughout her ordeal, Mallory is in the company of some thoroughly fleshed out characters, played by actors at the top of their game. There’s an excellent Channing Tatum (yes, excellent) as Mallory’s one-time partner, Ewan McGregor as her cold boss, Bill Paxton as her levelheaded father, Antonio Banderas as a quiet high-level exec, Michael Douglas as a government pusher, and then who shows up but Michael Fucking Fassbender, the man currently occupying the position of Coolest Person on the Planet.
Carano and Fassbender occupy the film’s most thrilling minutes, starting with a playful game of cat and mouse that results in a fight scene rivaling any from recent memory. Punches are not pulled; this is the real deal, and, much like the movie as a whole, I loved every minute of it. A-