Dolly Parton is easily my favorite living celebrity, an entertainer with enough cheerful spirit and musical talent to make Tennessee a worthy vacation destination (I’m heading there for the third time this spring). Hence, when the South’s favorite blond was line dancing back to the big screen, it seemed a natural recommend for my other favorite below Mason Dixoner, T.L. Bugg.
That’s right homefries: The Lightning Bug’s Lair is brimming with Joyful Noise, so hitch up yer horse and gallop on over for Zack’s what-I-imagine-must-be-rave-review. On my end, the Bugg sent me out on a covert mission to see Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. There’s less gospel singing and more ass kicking, but balance is important in this day and age. Just ask Dolly’s bras.
Quick Plot: Mallory Kane (MMA star Gina Carano) sits down for a cup of tea in an upstate diner when the boring guy from the only bad Step Up movie comes in to talk and fight. REALLY fight.
Winning round 1, Mallory enlists the aide of a curious customer with wheels and speeds away on the snowy road, telling her story to him and more importantly, us.
See, Mallory has one of those jobs that we only know about because of movies like Haywire. She’s a covert operative something something, an esteemed professional who negotiates and executes super duper dangerous plans around the world. Her last mission in Barcelona—to grab a journalist that had been taken hostage—went so well that she now gets a quickie job in Dublin via her boss and ex-lover (the young Obi Wan Kenobi) to pose as the wife of fellow operative/hot person Michael Fassbender. When a few details become suspect, Mallory finds herself back in combat and on the run.
Steven Soderbergh is easily one of modern cinema’s most interesting directors, both behind the camera and away from it. In terms of technique, he’s created some genuine marvels (Traffic, The Limey) and plenty of worthy experiments. As if flicking on a light switch, he can seemingly shoot out a commercially appealing mainstream vehicle without pandering to a less arty audience, only to turn around half a year later with a made-for-peanuts indie that butts any theater formula. Oh, and he’s currently working on a film based on Channing Tatum’s experiences as a male stripper.
Why aren’t more people as shocked/fascinated by this as I am?
Anyway, Haywire falls somewhere in between Soderbergh’s experiments and crowd pleasers. It’s an action film, to be sure, but one clearly crafted by someone with ambition and more importantly, creativity. We’ve seen badass hot chicks in hand-to-hand combat, but Soderbergh stages his battles in a way that lets you actually SEE them, pulling the camera back and stopping the music to let each punch and bang resonate. Thinking back to my annoyance with the well-received Crazies remake (which I disliked for its close quarters-with-no-context fight scenes) makes me appreciate the patience and trust someone like Soderbergh has in his work.
And yet American audiences seem to essentially hate Haywire, awarding it a cinemascore of a D+ and spending their cash instead on George Lucas’ Lando apology or Kate Beckinsale’s leather workout. Did moviegoers feel victim to a bait ‘n switch, expecting ‘splosions and shootouts only to be insulted with storyline and a smidgen of dialogue?
I don’t understand the odd venom for Haywire because you know what? I rather liked it. Gina Carano isn’t an Oscar ready actress, but you know what? She doesn’t have to be. She’s believable, likable, and most importantly, great to watch and that in itself keeps Haywire as a film to care about. The supporting cast is overflowing with Soderbergh vets (Michael Douglas!), personal faves (Bill Paxton!) and underrated stars playing against type (sleazy Antonio Banderas!). While the storyline occasionally feels a tad more complicated than it has to be, it tracks back easily enough once we reach the third act.
Maybe the ending wasn’t big enough for some audiences? I can imagine some viewers may have felt like each fight follows the same beats, meaning the ending (no spoilers) doesn’t satisfy in the more obvious Big Boss Battle route would have. It’s a fair criticism if that’s how you felt, but sit back to consider the fact that this is probably how these fights WOULD flow, and just because MacGregor knows how to use a lightsaber does not mean we should see some Jedi mind tricks in a stylized but reality-based action film. Plus, the final line of the film is kind of hilarious in a simple and wraparound way.
Ewan MacGregor. Bill Paxton. Antonio Banderas. AND Michael Fassbender?
Apparently Steven Soderbergh has the same taste in man as me.
One of my main irks with the action genre is the cold blooded ambivalence it generally has towards civilian bystanders, giving the audience minor laughs or thrills as random passerbys get caught up in gunfire or used as human shields (I still love you though, Total Recall). While some unlucky folks do find themselves in the way, the character of Mallory actively tries to prevent them from being killed, whether it’s warning some proud state troopers, non-fatally putting down some Spanish officers, or guaranteeing the safety of her game driver
Channing Tatum, I understand that you have physical appeal and a weird muse-like hold over your new bestie Steven Soderbergh but please, for the love of all your muscle tees, OPEN YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU SPEAK!
Never let an enemy order hot coffee when sitting across from your face
Don’t forget about the deer. NEVER forget about the deer
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Haywire on the big screen, but my $11 could easily have been spent on the latest Paracinema Magazine and a few rolls of toilet paper (I ran out). It’s a good film and more importantly, a genuinely special action movie so if you have the time and means, use that cash to make a point about what kind of cinema you’d like to see studios make. Or go see Joyful Noise because Dollywood could always use a new rollercoaster. The choice is yours, but you know what’s not? The freedom to choose which website to visit next. That answer is right here.