Published May 11, 2012
"She's a natural beauty who beats people to a pulp in a cage. How could you not want to build a movie around her?" says director Steven Soderbergh of what drew him to cast MMA sensation Gina Carano in her first film role, speaking in one of the disc's production features. That Carano should be positioned as a major action star is a no-brainer after witnessing her debut, though dropping her into a peculiar espionage thriller is the type of move only a director dedicated to tampering with genre formulas like Soderbergh could convincingly pull off. The plot, though feigning complexity, is a relatively clear story of double-crossing and revenge: a private security contractor tries to set up and off one of their top agents; she, understandably pissed off, seeks revenge. Initially, the deliberately realistic brutality of the action is shocking to see perpetrated against a woman. But that's only until she throws the first counterpunch, then it's made abundantly clear that, as a character later says, "you shouldn't think of her as a woman, that would be a mistake." Carano's sheer physicality, highly disciplined combat skills and graceful utility of motion are so formidable they should render considerations of gender irrelevant. The idiosyncratic director has an eye for atypical talent and though it's a completely different film, Haywire
makes an interesting companion to The Girlfriend Experience
, in which Soderbergh similarly cast a strong female performer from another medium to achieve a specific perspective on a familiar genre. There's a common theme of professional detachment running through both, and while it can be attributed to Carano's lack of innate charm (she's no Schwarzenegger) in this picture, Soderbergh is far too specific of a director for it to not be part of his intention. He reinforces this notion by shooting her early recap of events to an unlucky civilian she "borrows" the car of outside the windshield and sets her recollection of the operation in Baghdad that set events into motion to a segment of the bumping '70s jazz score that adds a sense of levity to much of the film, omitting nearly all other sound. It's only when in conversations specific to a job or in combat that the sound is raw and intimate. That these subtexts are apparent goes to show that while Haywire
functions as a straight action thriller, Soderbergh can't help but give attentive audiences more to chew on, even when he's playing to the crowd. To wisely balance Carano's lack of charm, intentional or not, he's stuffed the supporting cast with veterans Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender and a decent Channing Tatum, all of whom discuss their roles in a brief feature, "The Men of Haywire
." There's another more comprehensive feature on Carano's training, partly on her transition from the ring to the screen, but mostly following the preparation and shooting of the film's major fight scenes. "Characters of Haywire
," the only other feature, is a pointless retreading of scenes from the film that while I'm sure were decent promos, do nothing for someone who's just watched the movie. Action fans can expect a long love affair with Gina Carano, though it'll most likely be in much broader entertainment.