Haywire is categorized as a thriller, the director is Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich; Traffic) and the cast includes Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas and Channing Tatum. Impressive. So, we watched it. Little did we know that all those big name stars played supporting roles.
The lead role was played by Gina Carano whom we never heard of. She wasn’t a particularly good actress but she wasn’t a lousy actress either. But you hardly notice because what oozed out of the screen was the larger-than-life presence. Beautiful face but definitely not in the bimbo context. Tall, fit, great legs. Such fluid movements. I wondered how much of the heavy action scenes employed a double and how much of the stunts were performed by Carano herself.
Later, I would Google her name and learn that Gina Carano is a mixed martial artist. Figures. Seriously, I know of only one other actress, Michelle Yeoh, who can kick ass like that on screen and still look every inch a woman. Feminine to the core.
For the first few minutes of Haywire, I was totally lost. I couldn’t make sense of anything. There’s this woman called Mallory who enters a diner then gets into a fight with someone she works with (Tatum). She takes the car of a diner customer, the customer along with the car and flees. She tells him details about her work including names and asks him to memorize everything. Then, the scene changes. Several times. Jumping from past to present and back.
Mallory (Carano), an employee of a private contractor is tasked to rescue a journalist who was supposedly being held hostage in Barcelona. Mallory is hand-picked for the assignment at the behest of Coblenz, a US government agent (Douglas). The mission goes well and the journalist is delivered to Rodrigo, Coblenz’s Spanish contact. Mallory is then given her next assignment by her boss Kenneth (McGregor) to pose as the wife of a British agent. Simple enough, it seems, until it turns out that the mission is actually a ploy for her elimination. And everything goes awry.
Haywire uses a non-linear story line and with so many characters, it was, at first, a tough plot to follow. But after the first 15 minutes, I was totally engrossed. If you’re going to watch it, don’t give up if the first several minutes leave you confused. Just keep on watching to catch up. It’ll take you into the murky world of private contractors and their relation with government agencies.
It has political undertones, yes, but nothing heavy. Don’t think that you need to be well-versed with current political events to appreciate the story. Just remember that, however else they are glorified, private contractors, in peace time or in war time, are nothing more than mercenaries and paid assassins. That much is not fiction. What’s fictional are the characters and the events in the film.
Dialogues are minimal. It’s mostly action but not the testosterone-loaded bang-bang kind. The only word I can think of to describe the action is sophisticated. No overload of visual effects; just a lot of adrenalin. In short, Haywire re-defines in many ways what an action-thriller is. Really worth watching.