The film follows Mallory Kane, a mercenary for hire who is betrayed by her superiors and must fight to defend herself and get revenge on those responsible. Mallory is played by MMA fighter Gina Carano, who doesn’t embarrass herself in the film, although it’s fairly obvious that she was chosen for the part due to her ability to give and take a punch, not to emote. The rest of the cast is filled out with male actors both up-and-comers, such as Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum, and established veterans, including Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas. Again, none of them give bad performances, but the film doesn’t really give them anything to do, meaning that they are all merely serviceable. This would be a problem if the film focused at all on the characters but, it doesn’t, so the acting neither elevates, nor brings down the film in any way.
The real focus of the film is the action, and under Soderbergh’s direction, it is truly great. By removing music and artificially heightened sound effects from the fight scenes, Soderbergh creates conflicts that feel very brutal and real. The fights feel real and improvised, more like two people trying to hurt and/or kill each other, rather than performers going through choreographed motions. In this sense, Carano lives up to her purpose. It is very apparent that she knows how to fight effectively, so it is believable that she would be able to win fights against the men she is put up against.
The technical aspects of the film give it the feeling of a seventies B-movie. The music especially feels somewhat cheesy, but it fits in with the rest of the film, as it is a movie that is merely meant as entertainment, not an awards contender. The biggest flaw of the film, though, is the story. The film actually does devote a good amount of screen time to establishing the plot, which is not only unoriginal, but also overly complex. It is so convoluted that there were many times during the middle of the film that it is nearly impossible to understand what is going on, and what side each character is on. This would be entirely forgivable if the answers came together at the end, but they don’t and while some things are made clear, others remain just as murky as they did in the middle, which is frustrating for someone trying to figure out why things happened the way they did.
While the story is frustrating, chances are that most people going into the film are simply looking to be entertained by some exciting, brutal action scenes, and they will get their wish. As just a simple action film, Haywire will definitely suffice, but it is somewhat disappointing to think that, with as interesting a director as Steven Soderbergh at the helm, it could have been so much more.
Review by Alex Spear