Saturday, June 8, 2013

Instant Action: Haywire (2011)

Two people come together, one I like, one I loathe, what will be the result?

Written By: Lem Dobbs
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

I really love Steven Soderbergh as a director. I've become quite the fan of his work these last few years, and Haywire is full of the touches I have come to look forward to from his films. Gina Carano is at the other end of the spectrum, I loathe her in every way it is possible to loathe a human being who hasn't committed a heinous crime. Most people won't care about her transgressions, but as a former competitor and fan of mixed martial arts I grew tired of her prima donna "I don't need to make my scheduled weight" attitude. Couple that with her not actually being that good of a fighter who was pushed purely because of her good looks, and you have the reasons I loathe Miss Carano as a person. I avoided Haywire for some time because Miss Carano was involved with the film, but in the end my affinity for Mr. Soderbergh got the better of me and I had to sit down and watch the film.

As I watched Haywire I became even more convinced about the great skills of Steven Soderbergh as a director. I'm not going to say that Miss Carano was terrible in the film, but she wasn't very good. Every time she would open her mouth and speak it was evident that all of her charisma was tied to her physicality and not her ability to act or be charming in a traditional sense. In Haywire Mr. Soderbergh does something with Miss Carano that reminded me of what he did with Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience and Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight. His camera highlights what they have working for them, and he visually trims away all the elements that would cause the viewer to turn against them. In the case of Miss Carano the camera focuses almost exclusively on her physicality. When she is talking the camera draws away, as if even it knows that she's not on screen for ability to act. Miss Carano does shine in the fight scenes, although due to the aforementioned personal bias I couldn't help but cringe at her attempts to work her MMA past into the fights. It is thanks to the way that Mr. Soderbergh so smartly frames Miss Carano that she shines so brightly. She becomes a force, a wrecking ball destroying everything in her path. Mallory Kane isn't quite super human, but the camera conceives of her as the epitome of an action star in motion.

The moments when the film trips up are when drama is inserted in the form of a romantic entanglement between Miss Carano and Channing Tatum. Mr. Tatum is perfectly fine in the role of Aaron, and the direction of the scenes between Mallory and Aaron is perfectly fine as well. It's the script of Lem Dobbs that lets the film down in the final dramatic moments between Mallory and Aaron. Specifically there is a lack of romance and drama in their relationship. Then, suddenly the script stops the film and shouts to the high heavens that there is drama and romance between those two. It only does this to try and make for a dramatic moment, but that moment fails because it is not earned and it does not jive with the emotions, or lack thereof, previously displayed by the characters of Mallory and Aaron.

Haywire is more of a film about the form of action than it is a film about action. The streamlined nature of the film allows Mr. Soderbergh to explore the framing of a fight scene versus the actual action a fight scene entails. The action in Haywire means violence, and much like real life the violence in Haywire comes in waves of staccato like bursts. The action in Haywire doesn't just happen, it is carefully framed and constructed to give the audience the most direct form of action they could ever hope for. If anything the action in Haywire is alarming because of how tenacious and suddenly the violence takes over the screen. Always probing, always exploring the why and the how instead of just presenting. Those are tenets behind the career of Steven Soderbergh, and in Haywire he continues to show how special of a director he is by exploring form and delivering quality action at the same time.





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