We’ve seen actresses like Angelina Jolie embody the tough-as-nails, ass-kicking spy in “Salt” and Scarlett Johannson don the Black Widow’s garb and dish out her fair share of martial arts mayhem in Iron Man 2. Oftentimes seeing women like this in methodically staged fights requires a more strained suspension of disbelief. With Haywire, we finally find an action film with the novel idea of actually casting a believable actress to portray its former marine-turned contract killer heroine. MMA fighter Gina Carano ably batters her opponents around the screen in several well-choreographed sequences while also posing a likeable and endearing protagonist, despite her character’s predictable motives and ideals. The plot is overly straightforward and the supporting characters (with bigger names) are underwhelming, but with such an authentic protagonist, the entertainment is in her intrepid resolve – and in the jazzy score that recalls classier action films of decades past.
After a successful hostage rescue mission in Barcelona, covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) finds herself quickly dispatched to Ireland by her handler Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). Once there, she’s partnered with the mysterious freelance mercenary Paul (Michael Fassbender) for a seemingly routine operation, but soon discovers she’s been set up and someone wants her dead. Now, using her expert training and lethal abilities, Mallory must seek out those responsible for her betrayal while dodging assassins, the police, and treacherous killers from her past.
Mallory may be a super soldier, but she realistically takes a beating like a normal human being. She’s not immune to cuts and bruises, although a cup of hot coffee to the face and bullet flesh wounds don’t slow her down. It’s refreshing to see a female lead character that’s supposed to be strong and durable actually played by a Muay Thai fighter. She’s quite believable – she doesn’t just look badass, she is badass. Generally, it’s the male roles that are assumed by hulking martial artists, while the supporting female portrayals are appropriated by slinky, exotic, fragile, absolutely inauthentic vixens.
Where Haywire falters is in the story department. The plot is perhaps too simple for its own good, used entirely to showcase Gina’s skills. The problem with this is the lack of nonstop action – the pacing between fight sequences is just slow enough that even the stylish editing (that never teeters on irritating or seizure-inducing) and pulsing music can’t intensify the sense of urgency that escapes Mallory’s plight. For an elementary tale of a single double-cross, there’s just not enough going on to spice it up. Globetrotting, flashbacks, cryptic conversations and messing with the timeline aren’t enough to embellish the simplicity, which results in an expected, formulaic unfolding of events and anticlimactic final confrontation.
It’s also odd that the adversary pyramid is comprised of serious actors like Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor – all players not known for illustriousness in hand-to-hand combat. It makes them visually inferior opponents against a woman as muscular and athletic as Carano in a game of physical prowess. What happened to the passel of heavily armed mercenary commandos or masked, sword-wielding ninjas that could have been a real challenge – a more artistic, blood-soaked ballet of flesh, sinew and vengeance?
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)