Haywire takes place in one of those worlds where everyone has a gun in a nearby kitchen drawer, fully loaded. MMA star Gina Carano plays Mallory Kane, an ex-Marine making a living doing jobs for a private firm. The film opens with Mallory engaging in a bar brawl with fellow team member Aaron (Channing Tatum). She then escapes with a diner customer in his car and begins telling her story: after a seemingly successful rescue mission Mallory finds herself caught in a double-cross.
“Slick” is perhaps the best word to describe both Haywire and Steven Soderbergh’s filmography as a whole. Suitably stylized visually and technically sound to a fault, the director delivers the equivalent of an art-house action movie. It’s a fitting but ironic comparison, because unlike most art-house pictures Haywire doesn’t contain an ounce of fat and is puddle-deep. Carano brings a welcome physical presence (she performs all of her own stunts) and Soderbergh compliments her martial arts skills with stylish and creative angles during the film’s numerous fight scenes. A liaison with a double-agent that slow burns through a party set piece and culminates in an inventive brawl serves as perhaps the best example of Haywire‘s slickness. Soderbergh puts on a show in sound design, understanding that sometimes withholding the cool thrumming cues from David Holmes’ score is more effective than indulging in them.
Unfortunately with the rest of Haywire as tight and slick as it is the film’s weak story becomes glaring. Simplicity is not its weakness, it is its devolution into flashback to both lazily wrap-up convoluted plot points and disrespect audience intelligence in others. It’s a pity the film ends in this way, announcing the frailty of its story. It even saves its only lackluster fistfight for the finale, a beach brawl resembling a lesser Mission Impossible 2, going out not with a bang, but a whimper. Thankfully Soderbergh and Carano put on such a show it barely even matters.