Source: Digital file
Okay, yes, anyone who’s been keeping up with this blogroll knows that I swore off Steven Soderbergh films for the rest of my life following the abysmal banality of the semi-insane Schizopolis and the thoroughly unsuccessful neo-realism take on the apocalyptic virus sub-genre Contagion. My wife tried to watch Magic Mike last week and turned it off halfway through. Neither of us were keen on jumping into Haywire, that’s for sure, but we were unable to get a copy of The Artist to watch and after the horrendously underthought and single-minded DeNiro/Sigourney Weaver flick Red Lights, which we also aborted halfway through, we were out of new flicks to watch. Or rather, new-ish. So I started Haywire while my wife sat back and played “Tapped Out” for an hour and a half on her new phone. As I told her, “Well, one of these Soderbergh flicks must be good, right? It’s just the odds”. And thankfully, even though I’d been joking, I was right. (breathing sigh of relief here). Like very other genre or sub-genre that Soderbergh tackles (the Oceans Eleven series not withstanding here) is played to the tune of neo-realism. We’ve seen him do it with the genre pics Contagion, The Limey, and Solaris, the last two of those being pretty successful, artistically speaking, and here we have him taking on the super-spy martial arts action-thriller genre. With neo-realism. Uh, yeah… but it works. The plot structure reminded me a little of The Usual Suspects wherein we have three stories going on simultaneously through inter-cutting as our heroin Mallory, a super-secret and super-deadly spy working for a private firm hired by the American government has to go on the run when she’s set up to take the fall for a highly convoluted double-cross. One of these three stories goes deeper than the rest, and soon the plots all catch up with Mallory as she’s speeding away in a car, telling her story to a civilian who happened to get involved at a roadside diner incident involving guns, coffee and martial arts. The action is shot minimalistically and at some points it’s even raw, some of the shots go on for minutes at a time – and this is what really makes the movie stand out. Even though we’re dealing with a super-deadly female James Bond globe-trotting from one set-up to the next, the way it’s all filmed makes us feel like it’s real, like this is what governments do on a daily basis and the the heads of assassination corporations are really just human beings whose feelings can get hurt just like the rest of us. I have to say that Gina Carano, a professional athlete, is absolutely captivating in her first lead role here, and Haywire is overflowing with movie star cameos, but this works out, too, without being distracting. In fact, in a weird way, it gives the film a little more verisimilitude. I was happy to finally experience a satisfying Soderbergh romp after such a long series of misfires, but I have to say, I wasn’t all that surprised when the end credits rolled and I saw that Haywire had been written by Lem Dobbs – the same writer who scripted the only other Soderbergh film I really liked, The Limey.