17 May 2012


Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by: Lem Dobbs
Full credits at IMDb

Steven Soderbergh's fleet, pulpy, gripping, and fun Haywire is artful action par excellence—and a lefty parable about the unreliability of private contractors. It opens, like Martha Marcy May Marlene, in upstate New York: a young woman (Gina Carano) is in a diner, on the run, when one of the men out to find her appears. But she's no broken Marcy May type—she's more of an empowered Lisbeth Salander, kicking the asses of the men who would do violence to her. Her retribution is so violent, in fact, that people in the theater with me gasped and, out loud, asked her to stop. She kills one foe by wrapping her legs around his throat and pulling his face into her crotch. (Despite this feminine kind of violence, she's coded male, spending her free time oiling guns. "I don't wear the dress," she says.)

You can keep your indie Soderbergh: the prolific ad absurdum director—Contagion came out what felt like days before this movie—is at his best when he's in full Hollywood mode, here crafting a semi-homage to the 70s' international-espionage films, replete with slick montages. (He's also the poet of hotel and conference rooms, making sickly modern lighting look as rich as paint.) It's old-fashioned yet dynamic: the fight scenes and stunts are wonderfully naturalistic, rough-and-tumble martial acts that resemble dances in their physicality (Carano is a retired MMA star); the foot chases through alleys and across roof tops are tense, the black-and-white slo-mo climaxes, beautiful. And though the thin script—by Lem Dobbs, Soderbergh's collaborator on Kafka and The Limey—offers little in the way of characters, back story, or motivation, there is a fun little moral. Carano works for a spy firm privately contracted by the federal government, but her employer is into some shady shit. Many double crosses and much perfidy later, the failure of the private sector, the face of sinister capitalism, is plain. "The motive is money," the bad guy admits. "The motive is always money." Grade: B+

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