Friday, February 03, 2012

Haywire: Grade B


Haywire (2011)

Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas; Director Steven Soderbergh.

This derivative spy + martial arts film follows a standard plot we all know well. Covert government operative Mallory Kane (Carano) is on a “job” in Barcelona that goes bad. The operation was betrayed, ultimately we learn, by somebody at headquarters, so there is a mole in the agency. Whoever it is, they are now bent on taking her out too, so she is on the run from government agents even while she must discover the mole and exact revenge. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Nevertheless, there is a comfortable familiarity about it, like hearing a fairy tale you know well. And what raises this version just a tiny bit above average is Carano, who is a genuine, world-ranked martial arts fighter, so performs the fight scenes without wires and without that annoying micro-editing that actually doesn’t let you see anything. So the fights are convincing, surprising and enjoyable. And it doesn’t hurt that she is good-looking.

On the down side, she can’t really act, but you don’t expect fine acting in a genre spy thriller. The big name actors sleepwalk through their performances, so no acting thrills there either.

Also on the plus side though, the chase and action scenes are written and directed with wit and style. More than once, sudden and unexpected action took me by surprise. That’s good directing. The trapped-and-barely-escaping trope is repeated endlessly but the frenetic pace, good cinematography, and originality kept me engaged even though it should have become monotonous. You should expect sequels.

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