Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is not someone you want to mess with. A freelance special agent who performs a wide assortment of dangerous jobs from assassinations to rescue missions, Kane is one of the world’s best at what she does. After a job in Barcelona goes somewhat awry, Kane is immediately sent on a follow-up mission along with fellow covert agent Paul (Michael Fassbender). But as the job winds down, Kane realizes she has been double-crossed and that her boss, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), has tasked Paul with killing her. Kane escapes her fate and returns to the US with nothing on her mind beyond revenge.
What you have to appreciate about director Steven Soderbergh is that, for better or worse, you never know what to expect from him. In a span of nine months, he will have released three films (Contagion, Haywire, and the upcoming Magic Mike) and all three are dramatically different. Contagion was all about narrative (even if it was a narrative I found to be exceedingly boring), Haywire is a straight action movie, and Magic Mikeis…well…the weirdest career choice Soderbergh could have possibly made. The point is, Soderbergh isn’t a director that has a distinct style that you can pinpoint from the beginning of a given film and he’s always capable of turning out a fantastic, unique experience.
Haywire isn’t exactly that transcendent film that I always feel like Soderbergh is capable of but for what it is, it’s not half bad. What you see in the trailers for this movie is what you get: all action, all the time. There is very little here in the way of plot or character development and from that perspective, I think Haywire succeeds in doing what it set out to do. It lives up to its promise to be exactly the type of throw-away action movie that you want to watch at home after a hard day’s work. Nothing gets in the way of Carano cracking skulls and beating down dudes twice her size from the outset and there’s no time wasted on mixing in the lazy plot points that you might expect from this sort of movie in the hands of a lesser director. For this, I am appreciative.
For their part, each member of the cast gives a quality performance. In addition to the aforementioned headliners, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, and Channing Tatum all lend themselves to Haywire for a few minutes and each plays his role well. There’s nothing spectacular taking place on screen but for me it was enough that the actors didn’t seem to be mailing this in. Haywire always seemed like a “between projects” sort of movie that was thrown together in a relatively short period of time; those movies usually come across as paycheck jobs but this one displays solid effort from both the on-screen and off-screen talent. Even Carano, a professional MMA fighter with no prior acting experience, gives a better experience than I could have ever expected. I’m not sure you can really call it “acting” since she’s basically just doing her MMA bit against actors instead of actual fighters but she displays a bit of charm and a knack for bringing realism to her role. Add in a score reminiscent of the Ocean’s movies and you’ve got a decent-enough action film that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t and which packs a modest punch.