At first, an action movie by Steven Soderbergh sounds like a cash-in: an easy film he makes between films. Then you watch the first few minutes of Haywire, and as you sit completely blown away by the freshness with which this genre is tackled, you realize just why Soderbergh wanted to make this movie. He wanted to make a well-crafted action film that showed emphatically, that Hollywood gloss is not the only way to make an action movie.
Smartly directed, lovingly shot, and beautifully scored, Haywire is hard to find fault with as action films go. The dialogue scenes are rife with tension, and the fight sequences are physical and lethal and yet never go the big explosive Hollywood route.
The action isn't understated - it's just brutal in a way other movies can't be. Each bone crunching punch is felt and earned. Every kick or punch thrown looks like it is designed to take a human life.
Gina Carano, herself a prolific mixed martial arts fighter, has what it takes when it comes to these scenes. There is a purpose and a resolve in her eyes that she uses to sell the emotional weight of the action, and her skills with the fisticuffs are completely awe-inspiring throughout. Supported by a big list of supporting cast that surprises and charms, the film never sags, never slows down, and constantly surprises.
The plot is simplicity itself - Carano plays Mallory, an agent working for Ewan McGregor's Kenneth, and when she is "burned" or disavowed, she must fend off her assassins and find out where things went south. In the first half of the movie, as she explains her story, she is a hunted woman, someone constantly reacting to the numerous attempts on her life. Around the half time mark, the story switches her into a hunter role, and from then on, the fight sequences escalate, and Mallory is dishing out more than she takes.
In crafting a well-made film, complete with '60s-style spy movie soundtrack, lovely cinematography by the director himself, and late '80s-style raw action, not only has Soderbergh paid homage to his own style influences over the past decades, he has also made a movie that can be enjoyed at any level while he gets away with playing with gender biases.
Deliberately-shot action sequences bring about the gender reversal as well as implied sexuality in situations where none should exist - simply to provoke us into thinking clearly about accepted norms of action films as well as find more about us. There are no answers here - what you read into the Haywire's cheeky imagery tells more about you as a person than it does about the film.
This smartness is apparent to anyone interested in looking, but at a base level, Haywire is crafted as an entertaining film, and as homage to the stylistic flourishes that are employed. Haywire works at each and every level, even though the last act could have been tightened a bit. This is a fun movie that no one will regret watching, and those interested will find plenty to talk about later.