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 it’s 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. 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. When it comes down to it, Haywire blows away many of the Spy 100 list’s weaker efforts.