Thursday, October 30, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

‘Haywire': Trust nobody

Although her team’s human target has been rescued and safely stowed away, Mallory (Gina Carano) is a consummate professional who hates loose ends. She therefore pursues the one antagonist who dashes off, even though his escape can’t compromise her efforts. Cue an energetic foot chase with LOTS of running. Courtesy photo

By
From page A11 | January 20, 2012 |

‘Haywire’

3.5 stars

Starring: Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano

Rating: R, and needlessly, for action violence

Movies are all about make-believe: our willing suspension of skepticism in exchange for a good time. We tolerate the impossible — varying degrees of the impossible, depending on the genre — because it’s part of the fantasy.

Unfortunately, like a drug addiction that requires an ever-increasing dosage, filmmakers are forever seeking new ways to up the ante and further impress us: to once again deliver a fresh jolt of eyebrow-raising amazement.

Consider the action hero. Back in 1963, the climactic fist-fight between James Bond and Red Grant, in the close confines of a train compartment in “From Russia with Love,” set a new standard for brutal, claustrophobic mano a mano combat. For the next several decades, film fans and movie stuntmen alike cited that scene as one of the finest ever caught on camera.

Flash-forward to 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum,” when director Paul Greengrass and editor Christopher Rouse staged an even more jaw-dropping skirmish in London’s Waterloo Station. It, too, felt real.

That’s the key: credibility.

Trouble is, many directors push the envelope too far, particularly in the action thriller genre. Escalate the violence too much — turn the obligatory fight scenes into cartoons, with heroes and villains somehow enduring bone-crushing punishment — and we simply scoff and roll our eyes over the sheer stupidity of the whole thing.

Director Steven Soderbergh understands this: recognizes how “inflated thrills” have ruined many otherwise decent pictures. “Haywire” is his captivating, energized response: a spy drama with action, rather than a wall-to-wall action flick with minimal story and progressively sillier fight scenes.

Soderbergh’s secret weapon: mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano, whose fighting styles include Muay Thai, karate, jiu jitsu, judo, wrestling, boxing, sambo, kick-boxing and kung fu … all in a taut and unexpectedly hot bod. At first glance, during deceptively calm moments, she’s precisely the sort of individual who’d be underestimated right up to the moment she’d flip across the room, slam you to the floor and crush the air out of you — permanently — with a vicious, leg-twisting headlock.

And while she may not have the screen presence of Angelina Jolie, Carano’s certainly no slouch in the acting department. She handles her work here with reasonable conviction, demonstrating enough camera savvy to transition into a modest film career, should she so choose.

Lem Dobbs’ twisty script hits the ground running, filling in details as the narrative continues. In the tradition of vintage espionage thrillers, things aren’t as they seem; in the tradition of good screenplays, all the pieces eventually fit together quite cleverly.

Best of all: Soderbergh knows how to get on the stage, deliver the goods and beat a hasty retreat. His film runs an economical 93 minutes because it doesn’t need to be one minute longer.

We meet Mallory Kane (Carano) in a quiet rural diner in upstate New York. She’s on the run and found almost immediately by Aaron (Channing Tatum), whose familiarity bespeaks some prior working relationship. Alas, Aaron has been sent to retrieve her — on somebody’s behalf — and Mallory has no intention of cooperating. One mildly nasty skirmish later, Mallory’s fleeing in a car belonging to a helpful bystander (Michael Angarano, as Scott) who clearly wishes he hadn’t gotten involved.

As they drive away, Mallory rewards the confused Scott with her back-story. I cannot imagine why she’d do this, aside from the need to supply us with such exposition, but hey: It’s the only clumsy maneuver Dobbs’ script makes. Forgive it and move on.

Turns out that Mallory is a former U.S. Marine turned covert black-ops specialist, working for a freelance government security contractor named Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). Kenneth assembles teams on behalf of any client; the most recent assignment, requested by the shadowy Coblenz (Michael Douglas) involves the rescue of a Chinese journalist being held hostage in Barcelona.

Mallory, put in charge of the extraction, oversees a team of three other operatives; one of them is Aaron. The mission proceeds quite well, aside from a minor hiccup that allows Carano to display some of the ferocity contained within her buff frame.

After returning to her seldom-visited home in San Diego, Mallory is blind-sided by another assignment. This one’s a cakewalk, Kenneth assures her: a brief baby-sitting job during a la-di-dah charity auction at a palatial estate just outside Dublin.

She’s paired this time with Paul (Michael Fassbender), a British undercover agent who supplies the necessary intel on their target: the sinister Studer (Mathieu Kassovitz). We know he’s bad because, at first opportunity and despite a cover story that has Mallory married to Paul, Studer hits on her.

Everything goes to hell shortly thereafter. Even though Mallory suspects she’s being set up, her intuition doesn’t kick in quickly enough. Within hours, she’s on the run through Dublin’s iconic streets and rooftops: betrayed by she knows not who, and marked for death by whatever means necessary.

Her subsequent pursuit of truth — and efforts to source the double-dealing — involve some additional skirmishes, but never at the expense of the unfolding plotline. The pool of suspects expands to include the mysterious Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas), but surely he’s too suave to be a bad guy … right?

Although Dobbs’ script easily holds our attention, as we share Mallory’s attempt to penetrate the maze of deceit, we inevitably anticipate each new excuse that allows our heroine to beat the crap out of yet another male foe who underestimates her. These scenes are skillfully choreographed by J.J. Perry, and Soderbergh — who also wears the hats of editor and cinematographer here, under his usual aliases — captures them with breathtaking snap.

The result: a spiffy B-thriller anchored by a fresh female star who, unburdened by the off-camera reputation of (for example) the aforementioned Ms. Jolie, makes everything more fun because we are, in effect, getting to know Carano at the same time we’re sussing her character here.

It’s a highly entertaining experience. Michelle Yeoh athletically took on scores of baddies in numerous 1980s Hong Kong martial arts flicks; it’s about time we had our own bad-ass female action star.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at derrickbang.blogspot.com. Comment on this review at www.davisenterprise.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Meet Archer, Poppenga and Sunder

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
UCD prof will speak in Woodland

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Eichorn’s shredding event benefits STEAC

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
All voices welcome at sing-along

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Community forum devoted to returning military personnel

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Davis Media Access: Treasures from the vault get new life

By Autumn Labbe-Renault | From Page: A3

Kids ready to trick-or-treat for UNICEF

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Celebrate Day of the Dead on Sunday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Low-water landscape workshop planned

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Sending ‘Hugs from Home’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Yolo RCD welcomes new executive director

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A5

Volunteers sought to advocate for kids

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Sudwerk Ultimator arrives with a vengeance

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

.

Forum

She has all the leverage

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Duo are the best-informed

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

Humble and hard-working

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Yes on 47 for our safety

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Something’s missing

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

This is a terrific trio

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Elect Poppenga to school board

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A8

.

Sports

Something’s got to give as Aggies host UNC

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Davis vs. Goliath: Devils travel to take on Grant

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1

DHS escapes with a Senior Night victory

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggies hope to turn Gauchos into net zombies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

MVP Bumgarner leads Giants to World Series win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Aggie loss allows Gauchos to tie them for first

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

Warriors whip Kings in their season opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Youth roundup: Diamonds have a ball at Disco-Tech

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

JV/frosh roundup: Rio falls to DHS boys, who then take fifth at tourney

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Double dip for Devil tennis team

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

.

Features

What’s happening

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A10

 
College Corner: Going the honors route

By Jennifer Borenstein | From Page: A10

Chávez kids are movin’

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
.

Arts

Wineaux: Calming and curbing the crouching curmudgeon

By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A11

 
Hear Amplified DNA on Saturday at winery

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

Thursday Live! plans jazz and blues

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
DMTC plans ‘My Fair Lady’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

International Film Series continues with ‘Australia’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
DHS Madrigals host singing workshop

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

All are welcome at Fun Time Follies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Thursday, October 30, 2014

By Creator | From Page: A9