2011. Directed by Steven Soderbergh,
Fully automatic ass kicking cinema, Soderbergh's Haywire is a breath of fresh air into the stagnant graveyard of pointless action films.
Mallory Kane is a black ops specialist who is drawn into a conspiracy after a failed assassination attempt. Moving from one hardcore fight scene to next, Haywire wastes little time with character development and focuses on the formidable Gina Carano's talent: Total physical annihilation. Abandoning any sense of coherence in its endlessly convoluted plot, Haywire rises above the dregs by delivering some of the best choreographed physical mayhem in recent memory.
Haywire is a film that has no business being as good as it is. Soderbergh's mastery of presentation, editing, and scene composition are part of its undeniable charm. Carano was paired with an ex Israeli special ops soldier to train for the role, which involved stalking subjects and being stalked by other contractors. The stunt coordination for the fight scenes is trimmed down and visceral, presenting every encounter as a messy life or death affair where every superfluous object is a weapon and every surface is an advantage. The standout is the first exchange between Michael Fassbender and Carano. It's sexy, brutal, and completely unforgiving. During filming, Fassbender slammed Carano so hard into a wall that she lost control and literally smashed a vase into Fassbender's head. It's the little details such as this that enhance the combat, elevating Haywire to greatness.
The cast overflows with so much talent, it's a testament to Soderbergh's formidable reputation. Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas bring their game in playful doses, while Channing Tatum delivers the standout as the former partner turned hunter. It's just a fun exercise in the absurd in which each of these monumental talents throw any sense of pretention out the window and revel in Carano's bravado.
Soderbergh's cinematography takes all of the above elements and depicts Mallory's ordeal in an anti-Bourne fashion, eloquently following every punch and wall crawling kick with slick attention. There are sun washed beaches, deep blue night sequences, and muted city scenes that propagate the "better than it should be" mystique with fun lens flares and wily tracking shots that are to die for.
Available now for digital streaming, Haywire is an excellent pure action film that deserves more attention. While it doesn't attempt to plumb anything new in the genre, it more than makes up for with its firecracker exchanges and sharp editing. If you're looking for a violently operatic experience, give it a go.