REVIEW: Soderbergh Goes Nicely "Haywire"

by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic
REVIEW: Soderbergh Goes Nicely "Haywire"

This week, I’ve seen all kinds of storytelling techniques. There’s been a film with a thread of a story trying to prop itself up on action sequences. There’s been a film that actually had an engaging storyline that made itself more and more intense by upping the stakes. Now we have a peculiar way of trying to tell a story that does a little better than the first, which is saving the last ten minutes of the film for an attempt to put one together at the last minute, but which unfortunately doesn’t meet the standards of the second.

Mallory (Gina Carano) is an agent for a private security company who is on the run after a job during which she was betrayed. We flash back to a previous job in Barcelona where we learn that she and her team rescued someone being held hostage. After this, her boss, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), immediately asks her to do another job in Dublin with Paul (Michael Fassbender).  Things don’t go quite as expected, especially when Paul attempts to kill her. A phone call to Kenneth from Paul’s phone confirms that she’s been betrayed. Now on the run, she has to discover the truth behind why she was set up.


The structure of “Haywire” was indeed a very odd storytelling technique. In fact, the only discernable reason for even starting it off in the present and then flashing back is to let us know that something does eventually happen plotwise, but even then, by the halfway point, all we know is that she’s been betrayed by her own company. We spend the remainder of this brief film wondering about this, only to have to wait until the last few minutes where a very convoluted plot is attached to explain the situation.


The problem with doing this is that there’s not really anything attaching us to Mallory to get us to care about what’s happening to her. We know something’s wrong, but without the smallest details of what the significance of the jobs in Barcelona and Dublin are, or why she would have been betrayed, we’re merely watching her run around without the faintest idea of what’s happening.


The funny thing about the film is that it ends up being most affective when there’s nothing being said at all. There are two sequences that stand out from the rest of the film that show a really good filmmaker at work, and indeed the film was directed by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh. The first sequence is the job in Barcelona where we watch as they execute their mission. Things don’t go quite as smoothly as they would have liked, leading Mallory to have to chase down one of the guards. With merely a background score playing, we see just how effective the visuals can be on their own.


The second sequence is a footchase lasting about ten minutes that again requires no dialogue to get the intensity of the scenes across. We watch as Mallory rushes down back alleys, through buildings, and across roofs in an attempt to avoid the police. Soderbergh manages to keep the effectiveness of this sequence going for the full ten minutes, again on visuals alone. These two sequences earn the movie a lot of style points, but sadly they don’t manage to overcome the overarching problems with the story.


Another strange thing about the film is that a number of well-known actors were brought in to play an assortment of supporting characters with small roles including Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton. It’s odd to see so many good actors playing these small, thankless parts, pretty much the kind we only expect to see Robert De Niro in nowadays. It would be very interesting to know what attracted them all to this material.


Soderbergh shows talent for a movie like this, he just needs to learn to pick better material for a film of this nature. The screenplay was written by Lem Dobbs, who also co-wrote the interesting “Dark City,” so they shouldn’t have had much trouble doing a film like this, but when you choose to structure a film in a strange fashion like he did here, problems are bound to pop up. The film does have style, but unfortunately the focus on that element seems to have come at too much of a cost. 2.5/4 stars.


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