I was once a firm believer that we shouldn't let MMA fighters and WWE wrestlers become actors, since watching them act is often painful. While wrestlers still do make pretty bad actors, I'm revising my stance a little. MMA fighters can become actors only if they are ushered into the business by a director like Steven Soderbergh.
Gina Carano is not an actor by trade, and there are a few times during 'Haywire' where that's pretty apparent. She delivers her lines flat, with little embellishment, but the thing is, that's the point, because Soderbergh has expertly crafted a movie around her that can only be described as Action Movie Minimalism.
Carano has limitations when it comes to acting, so the movie doesn't bother with much dialogue from her. Instead Carano, who was hand-picked by Soderbergh to build a spy thriller around, uses her innate MMA fighting ability to create a kick-ass female character who rivals the likes of Uma Thurman in 'Kill Bill' or Angelina Jolie in 'Salt.' Carano kicks the living crap out of other women inside a steel cage for a living, it's easy to believe her in this role.
Carano plays Mallory, a spy. Mallory is employed by a faceless organization (like most spies are). Her handler and ex-boyfriend is Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) and he's got a job for her. She's to extract a hostage in Dublin. From there the story soon spins out of control when Carano is double-crossed by British spy, Paul (Michael Fassbender). Brutal fights ensue.
The fight scenes in this movie are something else. They're brutally choreographed and play to Carano's strengths. Soderbergh doesn't use quick half-second editing, and he doesn't degrade the action by shaking the camera around. He keeps the camera still as Carano and Fassbender fly around the room beating each other to a pulp. They throw each other into glass shelves. She knees him in the face. Then you start thinking to yourself, how did they fake this? Then you watch the special features and realize, for the most part, they didn't.
The realism in 'Haywire' is its crowning achievement. Let's forget about the tightly wound espionage plot simmering underneath, because we all know Soderbergh will tie it all up at the end anyway. No, this movie isn't about finding out anything. This movie is about watching Carano in action, directed by a director who knows how to film that action and get the most out of it.
Soderbergh isn't interested in all the fluff that comes along with action movies. There's little to no humor injected into the script, because there doesn't need to be. The characters that populate this environment feel realistic and they talk like they really inhabit these roles. McGregor says it best in the special features when he says, "These don't feel like movie characters to me. They feel like real characters."
The movie caters to the fact that Carano isn't a great actress. Long stretches of the movie are devoid of dialogue as Carano does her thing as effectively as any action hero ever has. We aren't bogged down by extraneous love stories, or silly subplots. 'Haywire' charges forward with the ferocity of a punch to the throat. Soderbergh was the perfect person to put a movie like this together. His direction is unobtrusive; then again, it's felt in every scene. Action Movie Minimalism.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Lionsgate Blu-ray release. The 50GB Blu-ray Disc comes packaged in a standard size Blu-ray keepcase. The back of the case indicates that this is a Region A coded release. It also comes with a slipcover which features the same cover art as the case. A code is provided for the movie's digital copy.
In 'Haywire' Soderbergh uses all natural light and it's evident from the very first scene as Carano walks into a small diner. Instead of the outside light being kept at bay, the light bleeds into the field of view creating a soft, hazy look. While this may crush detail and create extremely soft edges, this is the intended look of the film. As a result this digitally shot (Soderbergh used Red One cameras) there are many times in the film that detail takes a hit because of the invading natural light. That's just the way it is.
In darker scenes light is more controlled and detail is much better. Faces feature easily distinguishable pores and age lines. Individual hairs in Banderas' full beard are effortlessly easy to see. Contrast is a bit of an issue, again because of the use of natural light. Daylight burns excessively white. Blacks seem a little flat at times. A scene at the end features natural light as a backlight creating two soft silhouettes which some people might find hard to look at. Just know that whenever light bleeds into the picture or things get a little soft it's all intended to be that way. Although, because of that the 1080p transfer of 'Haywire' will never be thought of as demo material.
I was surprised that we didn't get a 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack on this one seeing that this is Lionsgate and they've given shows like 'Nurse Jackie' the 7.1 treatment. I would've liked to have the extra channels, but to be honest the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does just fine.
Dialogue is clear, which is a feat when you have Antonio Banderas in your movie. There are quite a few mumbled lines in this movie, but they're intelligible. Fight sound effects like fists connecting with faces are especially brutal and made me wince one or two times. The sound effects used here make the fights seem more real instead of coming across too Hollywood. The effects are delivered through the front and center channels. As the movie's numerous fights shift from one side of the frame to the other, the sounds follow suit, being placed perfectly within the soundfield.
The soundtrack is low-key, but the original music by David Holmes is one of the most important aspects of the movie. It sucks us into the non-fight scenes by providing a background to what's going on. Rear speakers are sparsely used, because of design. There just aren't that many scenes where there is action going on all around you. For the most part the action is front and center, and so is the sound. Yes, the rears do see a bit of action during some of the fight scenes, but not much. The music does bleed into the rears though, creating an encompassing feeling. All in all, it's a very understated audio presentation (much like the movie is understated in itself), however it still manages to quietly and consistently wow throughout.
A very sparse extras package awaits.
If you're tired of the same old action movies with nauseating shaky-cam and even more nauseating editing, then you should give 'Haywire' a try. Soderbergh has created quite the genre film here by staying away from all the clichés that come with action movies. He's also taken an MMA fighter and put her into a believable role. She isn't a great actress, but this is the right role for her. 'Haywire' is hard not to love. It's recommended on all fronts.