From the always-interesting Steven Soderbergh, Haywire (2011) is a slick modern spy noir, a well crafted mystery that punctuates its atmosphere of quiet intrigue with bursts of intense action. Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a former Marine, now an in-demand black ops agent for a private contractor named Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). Shortly after a successful rescue operation in Spain, Kenneth sends Mallory to Dublin to pose as the wife of an MI6 officer named Paul (Michael Fassbender), for a brief, supposedly easy mission. Instead, she finds herself the mark in a deadly frame, and has to go on the run to unravel the conspiracy against her.
Haywire has style and attitude to burn, and I found it visually enthralling. Soderbergh unfolds the convoluted mystery with confidence, keeping expository dialogue to a minimum and trusting the audience to piece it all together from carefully arranged imagery. David Holmes’ retro soundtrack contributes nicely to the old-school film-making ambience; the music is well deployed throughout. And Gina Carano, while merely adequate as an actor, is utterly convincing as a bad-ass action hero. The fight sequences are neatly choreographed without being excessive, a realistic showcase for Carano’s mixed martial arts skills.
On the other hand, I came away feeling like there wasn’t much there there. There isn’t much depth behind the plot contortions, and the characters are mostly just chess pieces. Since it’s a noir, this lack of emotional investment is understandable, but I came away craving some heart underneath the pretty surface. That said, I found the movie totally worth watching — like many of Soderbergh’s films, the unique approach and careful craftsmanship combine to deliver something a little different. And when it comes down to it, Haywire blows away many of the Spy 100 list’s weaker efforts.