Saturday, January 21, 2012

Haywire



The DVD commentary for Steven Soderbergh's The Limey, is famously combative, with Soderbergh and writer Lem Dobbs going back and forth over Soderbergh's decision to strip almost every ounce of motivation and backstory from the tale of an ex-con (Terence Stamp) seeking vengeance for his daughter's death from an L.A. music mogul (Peter Fonda). I highly recommend the commentary (and the film) to those who don't know it; imagine what commentary tracks would be like if everyone involved were totally honest about the finished product they were viewing. Soderbergh and Dobbs are back together again on the new Haywire, the tale of an agent for hire named Mallory (MMA fighter Gina Carano) trying to discover who sold her out and why. Haywire plays like some kind of weird experiment, as if Soderbergh had tried to make a minimalist action film that an audience wouldn't have to invest in (or even pay full attention to) in order to enjoy.  I don't know what Lem Dobbs had in mind, but if the two reteam for a commentary here the results could be worth hearing. The movie is lean and underpopulated; after an old colleague (Channing Tatum, trying hard to play a world-weary mercenary) attempts to take Mallory down we flash back to a rescue job in Barcelona and Mallory's discovery that her boss and ex-boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) wants her dead. The centerpiece of Haywire occurs in Ireland when Mallory and Paul (Michael Fassbender, whose talents don't exactly get a chance to air themselves), at Kenneth's behest, get close to a man MI6 wants targeted. This sequence is the one point in Haywire where Carano appears to be having fun (an inexperienced actor, she was probably afraid of lighness), and she and Fassbender would make a dandy pair of spies in a yet-to-be-written movie franchise. But there are layers within layers, and the fight between Mallory and Paul (heavily teased in Haywire ads) is Carano's best chance to show off her physicality. Carano is not an expressive actor yet, but there's a sense of danger in her movements and the feeling that she could physically take over any scene. The rest of Haywire is sauced with betrayals and reversals and includes Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton, all of whom must have signed on in part seeking a dash of credibility from attachment to Soderbergh's name. If Soderbergh were a new director Haywire might have enough anti-style to get noticed, but for a filmmaker ending what's at least Phase 2 of his career it's missing too much to be regarded as more than an entertaining trifle.

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