HAYWIRE, a bruising, gear-smooth 2011 action flick directed by Steven Soderbergh, failed to generate enough audience to cover its costs, despite a choice cast and positive reviews. The ‘meh’ public pickup might have been due to the year being flush with bone-crunchers, including three more that featured butt-kicking heroines, all released before this one could get a fair fight in the melee.*
Unlike the others, this ferocious fox is the real deal, popular mixed martial artist competitor Gina Carrano, fully convincing in the lethal brawls that embroil her character, a freelance black ops agent used by governments when they want to exercise their ‘plausible deniability’ arsenal. Concluding a mission in Barcelona, ‘Mallory Kane’ (Carrano) is set-up in Dublin to take the fall for someone higher up the chain. Betrayed, attacked, chased and determined to find out why, she can only trust her father, and leaves a trail of pummeled pursuers behind her.
Though she’d been a ‘personality’ performer, actionista Carrano hadn’t acted before, and she does well enough (movies like this don’t usually call for much more than grim conviction). Sexy in a I-can-snap-your-back way, she looks great in the excitingly staged, and reasonably-believable-for-a-change fights. Her hotel room battle with Michael Fassbender is a doozy. **
Along with Fassbender, helping her greatly is a can’t lose backing line: Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton and Antonio Banderas. Len Dobbs script is fat-free and Soderbergh moves it without missing a beat over a vigorous 93 minutes, photographing and editing it under his camera & cutting nom de plumes ‘Peter Andrews’ and ‘Mary Ann Bernard’, and he thankfully keeps his filming & paring of the hand-to-hand combat scenes clean and easy-to-follow, without cheating reality by tweaking camera speeds and inserting blurry, hyper-quick edits.
Another plus is the sleek, percolating electronica soundtrack from David Holmes. Budgeted through for $23,000,000, the box-office take was disappointing at $33,400,000 worldwide. Wintry locations: Barcelona, Dublin and New Mexico. With Michael Angarano and Mathieu Kassovitz.
* Released earlier in 2011 were Sucker Punch, Colombiana and Hanna, all with avenging femmes, plus the year before saw Angelina Jolie rock Salt, so maybe Girl-punch-Power was overkilling by the time Carrano went Haywire.
** Soderbergh did tweak his star’s untrained voice some by employing overdubs from Laura San Giacomo. Carrano, 29, already a MMA star, did a 6-week intensive tactical training regimen with a former Israeli special ops fighter, Aaron Cohen.
On her room rumble: “Fassbender’s crazy. He loves that shit… He had no problem slamming me into anything. Actually, Steven Soderbergh told him once, ‘We need to get this shot better when you slam her head into the wall.’ And I was like, ‘Damn, that thing’s not soft!’ Soderbergh is behind the camera and he’s being really mischievous. He wants something bad to happen… Anyway, we were going for it and Michael slammed my head so hard into the wall I kind of lost it for a second. I kind of slammed a vase right into Fassbender’s face, but he said he knew it was coming because he saw a flash in my eyes. And right after that happened I thought, ‘I’m so fired. I’m going to lose this job,’ because that was the first fight scene we did. But Fassbender, he loved training for the fight scenes.”