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'Haywire' has Hold on Dave

This action-adventure blockbuster took some figuring out, but was worth the effort.

It took about 30 minutes for me to figure out that Haywire was a good movie, definitely one worth seeing. If you get lost or bored, sit it out.

The confusing plot and the lack of dialogue had me mentally hamstrung until I came to three realizations:

One: the main character, Mallory Kane (played by real-life mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano), is a female “freelance covert operative” (imagine seeing that title on a business card in the fishbowl at Red Lobster). To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a woman star in this type of action/adventure movie, filled with fighting, shooting and car chases. It was refreshing — and although I was ready to call Gloria Steinem when the first bad guy tried tangling with Mallory, she eventually overcame all her male pursuers with karate kicks to the groin and various items of weaponry.

Two: The cinematography here is great! Director Steven Soderbergh ghosts as the director of cinematography as well, and his attention to detail is noticeable. Soderbergh here shows us the grimy side of Barcelona, freezing upstate New York and a beautiful beach in Mexico, among other various locales. Likewise, the last scene is also set in an architecturally stunning stone house in New Mexico.

Three: Haywire towers over the action/adventure garbage that Tom Cruise threw at us in Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol. The two movies look the same upon first glance, with double-crossing spies, kung-fu fights and shooting. But whereas Cruise gave us typical movie fare full of bright explosions and shiny suits, Soderbergh here gives us moody darkened rooms, beautiful dusky sunlight and a glum diner scene. There aren’t any lazy continuity errors in Haywire that plagued MI:GP either — when a character gets wounded here, you see the scar through the rest of the movie. Likewise, Soderbergh seems to understand technology, utilizing an array of up-to-date web-and-cell tricks to assist his characters. MI:GP seemed to be hopelessly trapped in the mid-‘90s.

The film’s excellent music stands measures above MI:GP as well, which wasn’t set to any kind of soundtrack at all as far as I could tell. The tunes were written by David Holmes, who has teamed up with Soderbergh on some of the earlier Ocean’s movies. Throughout we’re given tastes of jazz fusion, some Middle Eastern droning and a tasty saxophone/piano backdrop during a party scene. The music definitely added to the overall experience.

In addition to the fighting expertise of Carano, we’re also treated to a malevolent Michael Douglas and a bearded Antonio Banderas, who seems to be auditioning for a role in a beer commercial as the Most Interesting Man in the World. Ewan McGregor, meanwhile, does an American accent so well that I forgot he was Scottish (and geez, Trainspotting, the movie which launched his career, came out in 1996 — the same year that Tom Cruise’s technical knowledge is trapped in).

As I said earlier, the plot here is a bit meandering: It seems that filmmakers these days like to outdo each other in confusing the audience.

Especially early on, the film’s lack of dialogue made me think for a minute that I’d slipped into The Artist, the silent film that’s an early favorite for a Best Picture Oscar. But The Artist isn’t playing at any theater closer than 30 miles from . Meanwhile, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is still playing on two screens at the Cinemark Louis Joliet Mall theater.

Quotable moments

“I just got this car like one week ago!” — Scott, moaning after Mallory trashes his car

“Is this your idea of relaxing? Wine and guns?” — Aaron to Mallory

“If he’s paying, I’m staying” — Aaron, on the impending mission in Barcelona

Obligatory Who reference

Mallory Kane trashes a hotel room as well as Keith Moon. If she had nailed all the furniture to the ceiling in the exact place it was on the floor, I’d be impressed. Also, lots of scooters on the street in Barcelona, and the film ends with a beach fight — two obvious references to Quadrophenia.

Product placement protocol

No product placement was apparent here, although according to imdb.com two product placement coordinators were on the set. It appeared that director Soderbergh wisely stayed away from any cheap corporate funding stunts on this one.

Preview profiling

Cinemark assumes that because I’m watching an arty secret mission movie, I’ll also be interested in teenage party tripe movies like the upcoming Project X and 21 Jump Street.

Other observations at the moviehouse

  • Geez, in this age of Wikileaks, Republican presidential debates, Drew Peterson cinematic fallout and the crumbling Chicago Bears, I almost forgot about the CIA, that Cold War dinosaur entity whose graduates include half of the Watergate burglars.  I was reminded of that moldy cloak-and-dagger organization by Safe House and Act of Valor, both coming to a big screen soon. Waterboarding, inexperienced spies, car chases, explosions and all sorts of bedlam, all in praise of the U.S. of A, will ensue.
  • The makers of the afore-mentioned Project X are having fun at the expense of the esteemed Motion Picture Academy Association. Read the wording around the rating for that flick and you’ll get a snicker, as it warns of teenage “drinking, drugs and mayhem.”

English majors unite! John Cusack portrays Edgar Allen Poe in The Raven. Sounds cool, but I’m waiting for “The Cask of Amontillado” starring Robert Downey Jr., who is buried alive by a vengeful Jack Black during Carnival.

Freddie Kissell January 24, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Another great review! Joe, keep this guy on the payroll.
Dave Wilson January 24, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Thanks Freddie!

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