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A black ops super soldier seeks payback after she is betrayed and set up during a mission.
For more about Haywire and the Haywire Blu-ray release, see Haywire Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on April 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Angarano, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas
Director: Steven Soderbergh
» See full cast & crew
Haywire Blu-ray Review
Steven Soderbergh drives a hybrid.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, April 23, 2012
It's a little bracing to look back over the career of Steven Soderbergh and realize just what a huge variety of films he's helmed over the years, films including Sex, Lies and Videotape, The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, the Ocean's Eleven reboot and subsequent trilogy, Solaris, The Good German, The Informant! and Contagion. Has any other contemporary filmmaker traversed such a wide stylistic territory and managed to reinvigorate so many disparate genres? The fact that Soderbergh has visited so many hoary clichés and managed to walk away largely unscathed is something of a cinematic miracle, and so no one should be very surprised that Soderbergh has now wrestled with a mixed martial arts star, and a female one to boot (pun intended), and come out with nary a scratch. Haywire proves that female super spies needn't be a losing proposition, something that has itself been something of a hoary film and television cliché from at least the days of Modesty Blaise and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. Soderbergh is a refreshingly gimmick free filmmaker, eschewing the quick cutting, ultra- jiggly handheld ethos that seems to be most younger directors' stock in trade, and instead crafts a loosey- goosey narrative that deconstructs its story and reassembles it before the viewer's very eyes, with a liberal dose of ass kicking action thrown in for good measure. Aside from Soderbergh's gimmick-free approach, he's also completely unpretentious about what he wants to do with Haywire. While scenarist Lem Dobbs (who also wrote Soderbergh's The Limey and Kafka) tries to inject a bit of labyrinthine complexity into the story (largely by virtue of its nonlinear structure), Soderbergh makes no bones (broken or otherwise) that Haywire is at its core nothing more or less than a popcorn flick, a rollicking good time that has enough plot to support its set pieces, and enough rousing set pieces to overcome any deficiencies of that selfsame plot (or, frankly, the characters).
Make no mistake about it: Haywire is in its own strange way a genre mashup picture, if one allows that Soderbergh is a genre unto himself. This is not a traditional martial arts film (if that even needs to be stated), but it's also not the typical sardonically witty Soderbergh outing, either. And if screenwriter Dobbs is pretty much only pulling the wool over the viewers' eyes with an overly convoluted structure that wants to be The Usual Suspects but never quite makes it, it ultimately doesn't matter too much, due largely to Soderbergh's firm and nuanced directorial hand.
Carano portrays Mallory Kane, a sort of black ops worker for some kind of company that contracts to the government (a lot of salient plot points are left in the shadows throughout the film). As Haywire opens, she holed up in a backwoods diner when her co-worker Aaron (Channing Tatum) shows up and demands that she return with him to their employer. A knock down, drag out fight ensues, culminating in Aaron left unconscious on the diner's floor while Mallory makes off with a putative hostage, Scott (Michael Angarano), in Scott's car. That sets up the framing device, where Mallory recounts her adventures over the previous few days, with the clear implication that she needs to relay this information to someone since her life is obviously in danger.
We then get a series of flashbacks which show Mallory and Aaron commanding a risky mission to release a Chinese dissident who is being held hostage in Barcelona, a mission paid for by a government employee named Coblenz (Michael Douglas) and an intermediary named Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). That mission goes off more or less without a hitch (well, maybe one minor hitch which at least gives Mallory the chance for another impressive smack down), and Mallory informs Aaron she's leaving the company, as well as the company's CEO, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), with whom she has had a longstanding romance. When Mallory returns from Barcelona, Kenneth is at her door imploring her to do one more "easy" mission, posing as the wife of a British agent named Paul (Michael Fassbender) on what should be a quick hop, skip and jump to Dublin and back.
Without spoiling any of the film's significant twists and turns, it should come as no surprise to lovers of spy thrillers to find out that the Dublin mission is not everything it was cracked up to be, and Mallory soon finds herself in desperate straits, evidently having been set up by someone somewhere to take the fall for an unexpected death. This is probably the least effective part of Dobbs' screenplay, where various characters are shown to be not just two-faced, but in at least a couple of cases three-faced, leading to a pretzel-like sequence where it seems like virtually everyone is backstabbing someone else. Through this overly complex section, though, Soderbergh still manages to craft a film with coherent momentum if not an overabundance of logic, and Carano has yet another chance or two to demonstrate her rather formidable fighting chops (pun intended).
The performances here are mostly spot on. Carano has been taken to task for her supposedly flat delivery, but that misses the point that she's a highly skilled operative who has been trained to keep her emotions in check. Tatum doesn't have a lot to do here, but brings a solid physicality to his role. Douglas and Banderas are consigned to what end up being cameos, and they're fine if somewhat unremarkable, but McGregor is all oily charm and sleaze as Kenneth, in yet another brilliant transformation for this always engaging actor.
Those expecting non stop action will probably be at least somewhat disappointed with Haywire, as will those on the other side of the equation expecting Soderbergh's more literary side. But Soderbergh has more often than not quietly surprised viewers with his subtle tweaking of genre norms, and he's up to his old tricks again with Haywire. In one of the few supplements augmenting the main feature on this Blu-ray, there's a funny panel discussion (with a perhaps inebriated Ewan McGregor, who can't stop giggling) where Soderbergh admits openly about having stumbled on Carano on television one night, watching her in amazement as she pummeled one of her opponents into oblivion in a cage fighting match. Soderbergh asks the audience ingenuously, "And I thought to myself, 'Why not build a film around this woman?'" It's a perhaps startlingly transparent piece of information, but one that should point up the central allure of Haywire: it's a film utterly without pretense, out to simply deliver a good time, nothing more, nothing less. For the most part, it succeeds admirably.
Haywire Blu-ray, Video Quality
Haywire is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.40:1. This is a great looking high definition presentation if it's taken on its own merits, which are once again just subtly skewed from the expected by the ever iconoclastic Steven Soderbergh. How many spy thrillers or mystery films have you seen over the past few years that have been heavily filtered toward the blue end of the spectrum? If you're like I am, probably too many to count. Soderbergh of course doesn't go there, and instead invests large swaths of Haywire with a sort of late summer, early autumn amber ambience that may strike some as odd but which looks nicely hued and surprisingly sharp throughout the film. Close-ups boast a sometimes staggering amount of fine detail, with virtually every pore and wrinkle of Michael Douglas' weathered face clearly on display. The film is awfully dark in several key sequences, and while there isn't outright crush, shadow detail can be on the slightly muddy side at times. Contrast has been intentionally tweaked at times, in line with the color filtering, but overall this is a nicely sharp and clear looking transfer that is nicely filmic and should easily please most discriminating videophiles.
Haywire Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Much like the film itself, Haywire's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix may strike some as rather intermittent for an alleged spy thriller, but when this track does take off, it does so with power, force and a lot of nuance. The film starts out relatively quietly, albeit with some nicely directional ambient environmental sounds, but when the first fight between Carano and Tatum breaks out, all bets are off, and there is a panoply of great foley effects completely enveloping the listener. This roller coaster tendency tends to be repeated throughout the film, with more subdued sections suddenly exploding into bouts of LFE and impressive surround activity. Fidelity is top notch throughout this track, and dynamic range is incredibly wide and varied. The kind of proto-seventies score (by frequent Soderbergh collaborator David Holmes— though Holmes had his score for The Good German rejected by the director) sounds properly retro and fills the surrounds quite nicely in several key sequences.
Haywire Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Haywire Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Haywire is probably going to disappoint those who are expecting an all out fight fest, and it similarly may bewilder longtime Soderbergh fans who might be wanting something a little less mainstream in its ambitions. But for those who just want a fun time at the movies, Haywire delivers in spades, despite its flaws. Carano (who looks like a slightly buff Carla Gugino) is nicely athletic in this performance and also manages to make Mallory more or less believable, something not all that easy given some of the rather ludicrous elements of Lem Dobbs' screenplay. Ewan McGregor is a hoot as the snake oil salesman head of the super secret spy organization, and the film, while chasing after complexity simply for complexity's sake, is brisk and breezy and always entertaining. This Blu-ray looks and sounds great, and even though supplementary materials are awfully meager, this release comes Recommended.
Haywire Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Haywire Blu-ray - February 27, 2012
Lionsgate Home Entertainment will bring Haywire to Blu-ray in May. Director Steven Soderbergh's postmodern deconstruction of the modern spy thriller, Haywire stars MMA fighter Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, a black ops agent who embarks on a brutal revenge mission ...
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