Steven Soderbergh's 'Haywire' with Gina Carano Crashes the AFI Fest
by Alex Billington
November 7, 2011
She can definitely pack a punch, but can Gina Carano deliver a line? Last night, Relativity held a surprise early sneak screening of Steven Soderbergh's Haywire at the AFI Fest currently underway in Los Angeles. I caught the screening as I'm a huge fan of Soderbergh as a filmmaker and wanted to see if the hard-hitting action in this would actually amount to something. Alas, while it's beautifully shot and includes some very brutal, violent fights, it's mostly a dull, lackluster slow-moving art house indie, and Carano doesn't have the chops to make up for the uninspired agent-gone-rogue storyline. It's not terrible, just not that great either.
Relativity must be confident with the film if they're bringing it out this early before its January 20 release, and the audience at the Chinese Theater seemed to eat it up, erupting into cheers at the end. There's some impressive fight scenes, that's for sure, but they're not entertaining in a Hollywood kind of way, they're very visceral, you feel every punch and every broken bone, thanks to Gina Carano's established MMA talent, but by the end you're as exhausted as the two actors. Plus, once you see the fight where she takes on Michael Fassbender, nothing will compare, and at that point you've seen the best part of the entire film and don't care about any of the characters, but it's only halfway through, so what's left? That's part of the problem.
Haywire is a rather simple revenge story about an agent trying to find out why she's being targeted after supposedly successfully completing the "Barcelona" mission. Despite not caring for the script, what I can appreciate is Soderbergh's style that's in full bloom here. This honestly felt like one of those films you'd pick up on DVD late one night while on vacation in Spain when you need to watch a good art house flick to pass the time. That's truly the best way I could describe it, and that comes from the way he captures the sights and sounds of real locations, and even down the lettering/font for the subtitle of each city. His style makes it easy to watch, easy to kick back with and soak up all of the saturated colors and beauty of indie celluloid.
As with most of Soderbergh's films, it might be that each person can find something different in Haywire, as long as they have an appreciate for his style and his brand of art house drama. I know I'm not the only one who felt a bit unimpressed, unfortunately, as Germain from SlashFilm and Kate from Film School Rejects echoed similar sentiments about "weak storytelling". But with a supporting cast that includes Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano and even Bill Paxton (watch the trailer), there are a few "fun" moments to enjoy scattered throughout, but that's about it.
I do still love Steven Soderbergh for his filmmaking style and ability to put together films like this with impressive casts so damn quickly. He occasionally makes films that, while I don't care much for the plot or the characters, I sometimes just feel the need to watch, simply for the way he captures locations and his sleek, simple aesthetic. I'm sure I'll find myself re-watching the Fassbender fight scene numerous times, as that is at least something to behold in its full cinematic glory, though there's not much else that Soderbergh gives us in Haywire that we haven't seen before. Maybe it's time for me to put in Traffic again and refresh.