For regular folks like you and me, when your employer decides to downsize, or decides that he wants someone other than you on his payroll, you get your walking papers, which are also known as the pink slip. Generally the following message is delivered: We are sorry – your services are no longer necessary or required.
In the world of government trained or hired contract operatives otherwise known as assassins – things work a tad differently. You don’t get called to take an asap meeting in HR, nor do you sit down with a person hired to fire you a la George Clooney in Up in the Air. No, in this world, you get, as Noah Vosen said in The Bourne Ultimatum, the sharp end of the stick.
Vosen also said – “Issue a standing kill order on Jason Bourne, effective immediately”. He later went on to add, “All agents have shoot-on-sight authorization.“
That’s how it went for Bourne, only he proved to be not only unwilling, but also the toughest target they ever went after.
So too is Mallory Kane, played by Gina Carano, in the brand new Steven Soderbergh helmed actioner called Haywire which opened today. The references to Bourne are unavoidable. As are references you might want to make about Jolie’s Salt. Similar stories, different year, different stars. Speaking of stars, Soderbergh, as usual, has cast a rather lengthy list of well-known actors some of whom will be summarily butt-kicked by Ms Carano.
Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton,and Channing Tatum are the male headliners, or nearly the universe of the major male players in this film.
So much for the ‘Who’. Our next question might be ‘What’s it about?’ Aside from the obvious which you can surmise from my intro – that Mallory Kane’s days are numbered – we have missions that aren’t really explained all that thoroughly, motives that aren’t really clear, except when McGregor’s Kenneth says, ‘It’s always about money’.
Of course there is one more facet that always comes into play in these types of films – Trust No One.
We skip around from upstate New York, to Barcelona, to Dublin, to New Mexico, to Majorca without the least concern about passports, cash, ‘public transportation hubs being watched’ or even the availability of a seat. But isn’t that to be expected?
Anyway, back to Ms Carano, a former player on the TV show American Gladiators, as well as a tough competitor and a Champion in the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) competitions. This is her first acting role. However we can’t really say that she’s acting. She does what she did before films – kick butt. But she has to kiss a guy, recite some lines, and look fit. All of which she does without any sweat.
Speaking of reciting some lines. Soderbergh and his screenplay author Lem Dobbs, have Mallory and a male patron of the Upstate NY diner where the film opens, drive off. This character Scott (Michael Angarano) has three main purposes. He bandages a wound on Mallory’s arm while she drives, it was his car, and he serves as the listener while Mallory bring many of us up to date while giving us info about the events that happened before the diner, as well as introducing some of the players in flashback. Scott sticks around for a while, then when the past and the present have sufficiently merged he’s jettisoned.
The thing of it is that none of the story seems all that important. We don’t really build up an affinity or hatred for any of the folks involved including Mallory. She might be the centerpiece of the story – but it is hard to say, with conviction, that you like her. She is tough as nails, she’s smart, and she’s good looking. You root for her – but that’s as far as it goes.
Now for the guys – Michael Douglas is the government connection. He gets off the best line in the whole film when describing what happened in Barcelona – ‘Negotiations broke down’.
Bill Paxton, the Pres in Independence Day (sorry- that’s wrong – that was Bill Pullman, thanks Melissa for the correction) is Mallory’s Dad. Antonio Banderas is involved as a conspirator and he has the last spoken line in the film which is two words, “Oh Shit!”.
Channing Tatum is an operative just like Mallory, and he’ll lock lips with her. Ewan McGregor is Mallory’s handler Kenneth. He gives out the assignments. By the way, Douglas talks with McGregor and we hear that the deals between Kenneth’s outfit – sort of an Assassins for Hire agency, by the day, the week, or the month – no job too dirty, and Douglas’s government agency involve contracts worth 8 figures – that’s 10 million at minimum, yet Kenneth has the worst haircut ever for a prime time character in this type of film.
Did I leave anyone out? Yes I did – that would be Michael Fassbender who Mallory meets in Dublin, and they’ll stay at the Shelbourne Hotel (nice place – I’ve been there) . He’s not who he appears to be, and neither is Mallory, as they pose as husband and wife.
Yeah as an action film, it’s not surprising that it whizzes by in a rapid 93 minutes. Soderbergh leaves the jittery hand held camera out of this one, and the editing is sharp and crisp. There’s a jazzy score which is nice, and we don’t hear it during the hand-to-hand fighting. There’s also not a lot of sunshine and bright color. Atmospheric I guess, and it works best when Mallory is involved in a chase sequence through some of Barcelona’s winding and narrow, ancient cobbled streets.
I’ll give Soderbergh a lot of credit for casting an ‘unknown’ in the title role. Then again, after Croft, Salt, and her role in The Tourist, Jolie wasn’t going to do another action role. But Carano brings plenty to the role. Seems likely she’ll do more films, and quite possibly a sequel to this one.
Three point zero is my rating. This one isn’t bad but it’s not all that special either. The action is solid, but the picture lacks ‘cool’. Then again, I don’t think it was ever intended to be cool.
Men seem to like female action heroines, just as long as they’re not the one being kicked or worse by her. I’m one of those as well. It’s a combination of respect and fear as well as simple attraction. But enough about me.
Got some time on your hands, and you’re looking for an action film. Haywire, will be just what you want to see. An hour and half seems plenty long enough. And without a lot to think about, it goes by seemingly faster than that.