Tuesday Editor’s Pick: Haywire (2012)

by on January 11, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick


Playing Tue Jan 17 at 7:00* at Film Society of Lincoln Center [Program & Tix]
*Director Steven Soderbergh and star Gina Carano in-person

 
“Film Comment Selects” gives New Yorkers the scoop on January’s most anticipated release (not counting Joyful Noise, of course). Naturally this one’s sold out, but FSLC always offers a standby line for hopefuls. The film, which began with Soderbergh’s rumination ““Why is Angelina [Jolie] the only woman currently allowed to run around with a gun and beat people up?”, goes into wide release on Friday, Jan 20.
 

 

Here’s the latest trailer, with sufficient footage dedicated to Alt Screen boyfriend Michael Fassbender:

 

James Rocchi’s Playlist review has been taken down, but MUBI supplies an excerpt:

Carano’s screen presence evokes nothing less than 70s Pam Grier — where the effect is not that of an actor giving a natural and charismatic performance in a film, but, rather, a natural and charismatic person acting in a film. Carano’s line readings are occasionally atonal and flat, but that’s more than compensated for in the scenes where her personality and poise shine through, and if her voice may lack an elegant flow and nimble range of motion, her body, in action, has both of those in a way that speaks louder than words…. Shot by Soderbergh himself, as ever, Haywire is, like The Informant!, a movie shaped by the rhythms and rules of 70s and 60s entertainment. If you can imagine an action film where every fight plays out with the closed-quarters kill-or-die power of Connery vs Shaw in the train compartment in From Russia With Love — and get what that kind of intensity, energy and actors hurling themselves into their own action work means in an age of digital effects, wire-work and stunt doubles — then you will appreciate just how good Haywire is.

 

 
Craig Kennedy for Living in Cinema:

With an auteur-type like Steven Soderbergh behind the wheel of a genre picture, the danger is that he’ll spend all his energies rethinking and deconstructing that genre while forgetting to deliver on the things the genre promises in the first place. Luckily, in the action-revenge picture Haywire, Soderbergh shows no such pretensions. This is a stripped down, old-school piece of work and a perfect showcase for mixed martial artist Gina Carano who has the beauty, charisma and, most importantly, the physical credibility to be a real action star. Haywire may not be high art, but it is high entertainment. Isn’t that as it should be?

 

 

Todd McCarthy for the Hollywood Reporter:

Imagine an entire action film dedicated to the proposition that every fight possesses the intensity of the classic Sean Connery-Robert Shaw to-the-death scrap in From Russia With Love and you’ll know what Haywire is all about. With all the feel of a vacation from more high-minded and ambitious projects, Steven Soderbergh celebrates making his 25th feature film within 22 years with a kick-ass international action romp toplining mixed martial arts star Gina Carano as a covert operative who proceeds to whup a succession of macho leading men in addition to assorted anonymous foes; she’s Pepper to Angelina’s Salt.
 

Soderbergh and scenarist Lem Dobbs, who previously wrote Kafka and The Limey for the director, seem keen to admit that the action scenes are the point of the film, content to construct a plainly generic story around them. It’s a straight revenge tale, with Mallory fighting her way through assorted muscle-bound, well-armed and otherwise formidable obstacles in order to find out who set her up for assassination after she pulled off the Barcelona job. The script makes no attempt to assert its plausibility or realism; it is, instead, refreshingly frank about what it is, a simple, workable framework for the melees and mayhem.
 

As solid as all the male actors are, in the end the show belongs to Soderbergh, who took a risk with a largely untested leading lady, and Carano, whose shoulders, and everything else, prove plenty strong enough to carry the film. The director shrewdly determined what she could and perhaps couldn’t do, and she delivered with a turn that makes other actresses who have attempted such roles, no matter how toned and buff they became, look like pretenders.

 

 

Jen Yamato attends a sneak preview, for Movieline:

Where Haywire excels — and has the most unadulterated fun — is in reveling in the sight of watching Carano take on her famous co-stars in close-quarters combat. They may outperform her with character work and the spoken word, but no accomplished actor in the cast can conjure the pure glee of Carano believably tossing grown men around, or kicking an enemy — one played by an Oscar-hopeful in this year’s awards race, no less — clear through a glass-paned door.
 
“I’d just been fired off a movie,” said Soderbergh (said movie was Moneyball, later directed by Bennett Miller). Catching Carano fight one evening, he had the idea of putting her into a spy action picture. “I just thought, wow — somebody should really build a movie around this woman. She’s kind of amazing. She’s a natural beauty and she beats people into a pulp in a cage.”
 
The best anecdote from the filming of Haywire, perhaps? McGregor recalled a choreographed fight scene in which he accidentally clipped Carano with a punch. “I punched her right in the head,” he said. “She came straight up and she went, ‘Are you okay?'”
 
“And she was right, I really fucking hurt my hand. She didn’t even feel it!”
 
Could the same be said about Angelina Jolie… or Steven Seagal, for that matter?

 

 

Steven Zeitchik for 24 Frames, the Los Angeles Times blog:

Over the last decade, Steven Soderbergh has made big studio thrillers (“Contagion,” the “Ocean’s” movies) and small quirkfests (“Bubble,” “The Girlfriend Experience”). Can he do them both at the same time?
 
The studio quotient is satisfied by the locations (Dublin, Barcelona, Washington), the stars (Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum) and the general Bourne-ishness and “Salt”-iness of the premise, in which … well, it’s complicated, but basically said assassin hopscotches to distant locales and fends off, with a pugilistic flourish, the enemies lurking in the shadows.
 
But “Haywire’ is also a film with the offbeat sensibility of Soderbergh’s smaller work, a sensibility evident right from the opening scene in an upstate New York diner. Even more tellingly, like “Bubble” and “Girlfriend” (the latter of course sought to reconstruct adult-film star Sasha Grey as a mainstream actress) “Haywire” is fashioned around a first-timer — the mixed-martial arts star Gina Carano, whom Soderbergh spotted while watching some televised fights and decided to build a movie around. The result is a spy thriller that has elements of “Warrior,” not to mention Spike TV. Carano’s heroine flips off walls and locks enemies in jujitsu leg vises.

 

Soundtrack samples from David Holmes 70s inflected score:

 

 

More Fassbender love, at the Playlist:

Carano tells of how the star of “Shame” proved her match. “[Michael] Fassbender just became a mentor to me, he was so supportive. And he was so down to just bang into everything we could, vases, everything. He always was like ‘We need to slam our head into that wall a little harder.’ “Those words came back to haunt him, however, in one brutal fight scene. “In the hotel room fight scene,” Soderbergh relates, “which was rehearsed at length, for weeks, our lead stunt choreographer explained to Michael ‘Listen, here’s what’s going to happen. When she reaches for the vase, your instinct is going to be to look at it. Don’t do that, because if you do that, she’s going to hit you right in the eye with it.’ They drilled this into him, and sure enough, on take one, she grabbed it, and he looked right at it, and she hit him right, flush — and it’s the take that’s in the movie. That’s the good news. But he really got clocked. I mean it’s breakaway, but you don’t wanna get hit by her with this at full tilt. He took a beating.”
 
That scene itself, heavily featured in the trailer, was in fact the spring-off point for the whole project, via a mostly forgotten vehicle for “The Birds” star Rod Taylor. Soderbergh explains “The writer, Lem Dobbs, had turned me on to a movie that was made in the 60s called ‘Darker Than Amber,’ which starred Rod Taylor, who I always liked a lot. And there’s this scene in the middle with him and what must have been a stuntman, where they get into this incredibly brutal fight in a hotel room, smaller than this one and not as nice, and they just tear each other apart, and tear the room apart. And we talked about it, and I thought that would be great, but it’d be even better if it was a four-star hotel, and he was in a suit, and she was in a cocktail dress. That would be a really odd juxtaposition of elements. In a lot of ways, the movie was built out from that idea.”
 
And true to its retro inspiration, the director was keen to stay away from any contemporary “Bourne Identity”-style camerawork. “I don’t think there’s a single hand-held shot in the movie,” Soderbergh said. “We were really consciously going against the grain there, because my feeling is that lately, there has been a way of disguising the fact that the people can’t really do what’s required, and knowing that I had Gina, and knowing that we had cast people around her who could actually do this stuff, we took the conscious position of letting you really see it, not cutting as fast, keeping the shots looser, and having you feel, ‘Wow, that’s really happening in front of us.’ “

 

Said sequence from Darker than Amber:

 

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