Steven Soderbergh is a tough director to pigeonhole, flitting from genre to genre and big budget to indie, and Haywire is another curious entry in his list of films, managing to have a stellar cast while still seeming low key.
Part of the contradition within it is the casting of former Gladiator and martial arts expert Gina Carano as the central character. When it comes to beating the living daylights out of people, she does all her own stunts and is incredibly realistic, almost brutally so at times.
And the fact that the fight scenes look so real and are so intense means that a lot of the rest of it looks fake by comparison. Carano isn’t a bad actress, judging by her performance here, far less wooden than most martial arts action hero types, but she’s so deadly efficient at beating people up that you struggle to fear for her character.
She plays a secret agent/hitwoman type who finds herself being betrayed by her bosses and having to go on the run. And that’s about it, with the biggest twist of the film having been given away in one of the trailers I saw. Soderbergh throws a few curveballs in by telling the story with flashbacks rather than in a linear fashion, but that doesn’t add too much.
And neither does the surprisingly strong cast, with Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton and Mathieu Kassovitz all popping up at various times and mostly getting beaten up by Carano. They all do their jobs well enough, but their jobs are mostly quite limited.
That’s the contradictory nature of Haywire. It’s a lean, efficient killing machine of a film, just like its heroine. There’s no bloat about it, but also little to get your teeth into. For a sophisticated-looking, totally unmemorable thrill ride with impressive fight scenes, you can’t go too far wrong, but don’t go in hoping for anything more than that.
Sometimes it's hard to understand the logic behind the renaming of a foreign film, but in this case, it's just a bit depressing. A Call Girl was originally called Slovenian Girl, hardly a difficult name for international audiences to understand, and very relevant to the film, but someone, somewhere, thought that it would get more attention if if it was renamed to sound a bit more 'sexy'. Anyone buying it for that reason will be disappointed, which is a shame, because it's a fantastic film on its own merits.