Haywire (2011 Movie) review…

Haywire (2011 Movie) review… after the break…

Haywire (2011 Movie) review…

Ever since the movie “The Bourne Identity” became an unexpected hit in 2002, movie studios have attempted to capitalize on the near-superhuman but normal-looking secret agent theme. However, none of them have been able to replicate the success that actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass has been able to cultivate. Mark Wahlberg couldn’t regenerate it in the more Conservative-friendlier “Shooter.” Angelina Jolie wasn’t able to muster it in the over-the-top and female-oriented “Salt.” “Collateral” was an impressive effort by Tom Cruise and Michael Mann that captured the nighttime vibe of the city of Los Angeles but had limited franchise potential because… Well, Tom Cruise was the villain and Jamie Foxx the reluctant cabbie hero. Not even Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass could replicate the Jason Bourne magic when they went outside that intellectual property for the Gulf War-oriented “Green Zone.” Bruce Willis led a geriatric ensemble cast in the comedy-centric “Red” that seems to have wheezed to a stop after a sequel. Liam Neeson’s “Taken” franchise has become a parody of itself to the point where his gravelly-voiced, calmly-delivered threats are now late-night talk show fodder. Not even the Jason Bourne franchise can maintain it’s momentum with it’s lackluster and Damon-less “Bourne Legacy” with it’s much-ridiculed (but not exactly deservedly so) “chems.” Do I need to add the “Total Recall” reboot to the list?

Only the James Bond series, rebooted a while back with a grittier and more serious tone behind actor Daniel Craig, seems to have pierced the glass ceiling of success that Jason Bourne enjoys but, then again… It’s James Bond, the grandmaster of cinematic spies himself.

With the exception of the movie “Salt,” though, the near-superhuman super agent genre of late has been a sausage party. That isn’t to say that Hollywood isn’t devoid of femme fatales with a killer punch. Milla Jovovich has a personal ATM machine called “the Resident Evil franchise” and Kate Beckinsale has been milking the vampire/werewolf “Underworld” franchise since 2003 for all that it’s worth. Yet these two franchises are more horror- and fantasy-based: Kicking butt is fairly easy regardless of your chromosomes when you’ve got vampire genes and science-fiction technology at your disposal.

So it was fairly refreshing to find the movie “Haywire,” a 2011 effort by Steven Soderbergh (yes, that one) that pits a female super agent played by former MMA fighter Gina Carano against her former employer, co-workers and various other law enforcement agencies as she attempts to evade death and unravel why she is suddenly targeted for assassination by just about everyone she knew on a professional basis.

Soderbergh doesn’t waste any time getting to the action and the fighting is hardly cinematic in it’s delivery. Unlike other movies where the punches and kicks are delivered with flamboyant florish for maximum audience enjoyment, the violence in “Haywire” seems more grounded in reality and, from a social perspective, a bit more disturbing as a lot of it is directed at a woman. To her credit, Carano looks and acts as though she can deliver as good of a punch as she can take.

“Haywire” doesn’t skimp on the A-list talent to the point of unintended distraction. Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum and Bill Paxton (to name a few) round out an impressive cast to the point where I wondered if I was watching a Muppet movie where you see a famous Hollywood actor cameo every minute or so. The list of high-caliber talent was so overwhelming for such a modest production that it made the lesser-known actors stand out by consequence. What? You couldn’t fit Leonardo DiCaprio in to play the hapless man whose car gets hijacked by Carano?

“Haywire” might have an impressive cast and director but it’s overall story is far more modest and rooted to reality, in part because of it’s modest budget (which makes one wonder if everyone involved took a massive pay cut just so that they could list on their resume that they’ve done a Jason Bourne-like movie before they retire on their residuals). Unlike the bulging budget that has graced the Bourne series and the typically astronomic budget of the Bond series, “Haywire” feels more like a local production. Even it’s largest action scene, reminiscent of the hotel and rooftop chase in “Bourne Supremacy,” with Carano escaping from the police and others after another deadly fight with a government assassin, feels local and limited in scope. Such intimate action sequences cut both ways – There is an authenticity to the scene that larger budget movies can’t capture and yet it’s hard to feel the larger gravity of the scene because the budget doesn’t allow for police helicopters or other large-scale cinematics to convey the sheer number and severity of the law enforcement agencies pursuit.

There’s nothing overtly wrong with the story of a female super agent forced to defend herself physically from those she formerly worked for but the modest budget prevents the story from attaining critical mass and part of the problem is the A-list cast. When you see an impressive list of actors, you expect a storyline where the entire world is in peril rather then a more localized story. Everyone plays their part well enough but, given the material, no one was exactly digging deep in order to nail a scene. I was particularly struck by Bill Paxton playing a middle-aged father who’s character sits on a sofa or talks on the phone for the entirety of the movie. And the point of his character was…? (To be fair, the same could be said for Michael Douglas as well, looking very much removed from his “Falling Down” days). It’s an action movie, not Hemingway, so expecting complicated story arcs would be expecting a bit too much. Those who felt that the movie “Remains of the Day” skimped on it’s plot need not apply here.

All in all, the movie came across as a fairly impressive underrated gem and the closest anyone has gotten to succeeding with a “Bourne with Breasts” movie. “Haywire” sets itself up as a franchise but given the soft box office return and years gone by, it’s unlikely that “Haywire 2” will be greenlit unless it’s done with a director fresh out of film school, with even less budget then the first time around and with a cast that makes a rundown dinner theater group sound like an upgrade… And straight-to-DVD to boot.

“Haywire” deserved better because it is better then a lot of the “Bourne” wannabes but life often isn’t fair. That’s too bad; A “Haywire 2” with a larger budget might have realized the potential of placing a female in Bourne’s shoes.

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