Friday Fisticuffs: Haywire (2011)

haywire poster There really aren’t enough action films starring female ass-kickers. And while I freely admit that seeing a woman get hit on screen still makes me uncomfortable, I’m still interested in any action movie that casts a lady in the lead. Haywire was even more appealing because I knew that star Gina Carano used to be a mixed martial arts fighter and it was directed by Steven Soderbergh who always makes interesting films (I love the Oceans movies hard).

The story, which focuses on Carano’s Mallory Kane, a freelance assassin or mercenary, is told in a non-linear format. The main thrust of the story finds Mallory betrayed by her former bosses, replaying recent events and trying to figure out who burned her. The cast is a fantastic one that includes Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano and Bill Paxton, so there’s all kinds of quality in that regard.

As you might expect from a Soderbergh action movie, this one’s pretty far from traditional. He handles the fights incredibly realistically, pitting two people against each other in fights lacking the cartoonish sound effects we’re used to hearing and even dropping the music out of most scenes. The first brawl you see not only comes as a surprise because you’re not expecting it, but also because the violence is brutal, real and  shocking. The following clip is of that scene, but if you don’t want anything spoiled, skip it.

And that’s how all of the fights go. It’s an interesting breath of fresh air and shows how well-rounded this genre can really be if more people like Soderbergh are able to stretch out and do their thing within the framework. I looked up fight choreographer J.J. Perry and he’s done everything from more realistic action films like this to Ultraviolet, Machete Kills and Safe. It’s cool to see that choreographers like Perry can be as versatile as a director and writer like Soderbergh.

Overall, I really enjoyed Haywire, but I would recommend going in with a realistic mindset. If you want something packed to the gills with explosions and intricately choreographed fight scenes, you might want to steer clear. But, if you’re looking for the thinking person’s action flick told in kind of a Pulp Fiction way, watch Haywire.

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