While the story of a betrayed spy seeking revenge has been done many times before, director Steven Soderbergh’s recent action film, “Haywire,” stunned audiences with an impressive array of fight scenes during its theatrical release today, January 20.
Because “Haywire” stars real life mixed martial arts fighter Gina Canaro as main character Mallory, the action sequences are significantly more believable and gripping. Canaro moves quickly and takes down her opponents in a myriad of imaginative ways–so instead of seeming staged and scripted, the punches and kicks feel like real fights.
The problem, however, is that while the action is impressive, dramatic fighting sequences alone aren’t enough to hold up an otherwise mediocre combination of plot and acting.
Large parts of the movie lack dialogue and development, and instead alternate between long scenes of missions and boring background music. Although this strategy for building suspense could have been effective if used sparingly and during shorter scenes, the producers overindulged and the method quickly became tiresome.
Moreover, despite Mallory’s multiple missions throughout the movie, none of them are adequately explained. Without a stable supporting plot, the jobs she’s assigned to simply devolve into one repetitive action sequence after another.
And to top it all off, Canaro’s acting often feels strained. Though very engaging when grappling with foes, her performance when it comes to dialogue and plot development is lacking. It seems as if she has trouble getting into character–an obstacle that makes it significantly harder for the audience to empathize with a protagonist who otherwise would have had great emotional potential. While Mallory’s employer’s attempts to have her murdered seem to make for a gripping storyline, Canaro’s subpar acting prevents her character from developing to the fullest.
Fortunately, although Canaro’s acting isn’t what one would expect from a main character, the supporting cast has a lot more to offer. Michael Angarano, who is cast as a man whom Mallory kidnaps and steals from, does an amazing job juggling anxiety and confusion (while at the same time providing much needed comic relief).
On the other hand, Bill Paxton, who plays Mallory’s father, performs strongly in one of the more complicated and developed roles. He seems clearly supportive of his daughter and wants her to succeed, but is scared, as any father would be, for her safety. He wants to help Mallory succeed in escaping those chasing after her, but at the same time is all too aware that she could easily get caught and be in serious trouble. Paxton walks this fine line wonderfully and is believable as a well-meaning, albeit concerned, parent.
While the fight sequences are truly superb and the supporting cast is strong, the lack of a convincing main character makes the movie fall short. The one major silver lining is that because “Haywire” lasts only around an hour and a half, most of its short time is spent showcasing Canaro’s impressive fighting skills–a major plus for a movie that otherwise doesn’t stand out.