To a large extent, both on the surface and at its root, Steven Soderbergh’s latest caper, HAYWIRE, is nothing more than a filmic excuse to watch former “American Gladiator”, Gina Carano, beat the living crap out of a bunch of big, strapping men. On many levels, Soderbergh has made this exact same movie in some form or another a number of times before, both stylistically and structurally. And while it may not be original at all, nor carry any real substance, HAYWIRE packs a punch that resonates with visceral intensity, leaving the viewer just as walloped as the men on screen, and loving it.
HAYWIRE is tailored to exhibit Carano’s talents to the utmost. Her mixed martial arts background lends great weight to the film, making the showcase well deserved. Whether she is taking on the likes of the mammoth Channing Tatum, or the highly skilled Michael Fassbender, or even the slightly smaller but equally spry, Ewan McGregor, Carano holds her own and then some. Her acting is occasionally stiff, but like Sasha Grey in Soderbergh’s THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, the frosty exterior suits her character. Besides, Carano is a total pleasure to watch when she gets rough and tough. When she fights, she unleashes a pressure and force on her opponents that is almost palpable, as if you can almost feel the brunt of her knuckles against your own cheek. Of course, this is also partly attributed to the manner in which Soderbergh allows the sequences to play out as well. While they bear his unmistakable style, they also exude a certain natural rawness to them that helps anchor the film too.
Soderbergh is unquestionably one of the most accomplished filmmakers working in cinema today. He is also, most of the time, one of the most identifiable directors as well. One always knows when one sees that yellow tint on the screen that one is watching one of his films. Even the international spy story, told from several different perspectives is reminiscent of his OCEAN’S 11 series or last year’s CONTAGION. On the one hand, I was disappointed to see Soderbergh cruising through such familiar terrain in HAYWIRE, but then there is the flip side to that. While it may not break any new ground for the director, all of his staples come together perfectly here, allowing for HAYWIRE to do what it does best, which is just kick ass.