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Friday, January 27, 2012

Haywire (Release Date: 1-20-2012)

        Stop me if you've heard this one before: A freakish athlete (in this case, a woman) is brought in and trained under the jurisdiction and watchful eye of the government. She's one of the best out there, efficient and graceful in her works of violence. Then, seemingly out of no where, the people whom she trusted sell her out, attempting to take her down in order to hide a dirty secret. Without anyone to turn to, the woman must go rogue, destroy those who have betrayed her, and finally solve the mystery of what all went wrong. Familiar much? The plot of Steven Soderbergh's newest, Haywire, make no buts about what it is, hitting the beats spot on, daring you to mind its adherence to cliche.

        Soderberg has always been obsessed with the notion of genre; Movies like Contagion and Ocean's Eleven would instantly slot amongst the ranks of high concept genre fair (Disaster Epic, and Heist Flick, respectively) were it not for their outstanding levels of quality. It's clear that this is what Soderbergh is trying to do here, take a framework that we all know front to back, and reveal just how exciting and alive it can still be when handled properly. While his motive and message are worth applauding, it almost seems like the guy wanted Haywire to succeed in spite of its rhetoric, not because of it. The plot is paper thin, impossible to truly invest in, and the way that actors like Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender are wasted is fairly disheartening. As if stacking the obstacles against itself on purpose, the rogue female previously mentioned is played by non-actor Gina Carano, who has occasional good moments, but certainly isn't anything to write home about as a thespian. Where Soderbergh had perhaps wanted to turn a tired movie into a good one, here he's attempting to will a bad movie into a good one.

        The guy isn't without his fair share of successes; This is Steven Soderbergh we're talking about. Some of Haywire's action sequences are clumsy and off-kilter, but others are absolutely electric, owing much to the supreme physical talents of Carano, who battles with the same trained finesse that dancers dance. Other Soderbergh stand-bys are here as well, including the blurry, gold-tinted frame, the vaguely jazzy score, and a hankering to globe trot for no real reason at all. Soderbergh set out to show people how to make a dumb action movie, and while he has fleeting moments of real success, the whole thing just isn't sweaty enough to create real tension. Caught somewhere between the cartoonish wonder of Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, and the edge-of-you-seat seriousness of the Bourne series, Haywire feels cobbled together out of spare parts, and the fact that its kind of supposed to feel that way offers little consolation. It has highs, and it has lows, and a week after you see it, you'll never think of it again. Welcome to January.

Grade: B-

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