‘Haywire’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 27th, 2014 at 3:58 pm,

haywire review gina carano Haywire Review
Some moviegoers might ultimately scoff at details in the film’s narrative – but watching Carano throw her entire body and soul into Mallory never falters in delivering compelling onscreen action.

Fans of mixed martial arts (MMA) are likely already familiar with Gina Carano – a highly ranked Middleweight fighter (and ex-American Gladiator “Crush”) who was recently scooped up by director Steven Soderbergh for an action-heroine role.

Now, Soderbergh and Carano are set to deliver their combined effort: The action-espionage film Haywire, which mixes the director’s sharp visual style and intriguing character drama with Carano’s heavy-hitting and downright brutal fight choreography.

Like much of Soderbergh’s work, Haywire stumbles here and there – but ultimately delivers a unique moviegoing experience that is both intelligent and especially exciting to watch. Concerns over Carano’s casting (which some detractors believed would be representative of style over substance) are quickly put to rest as the newcomer actress easily presents a performance that balances some of the most savage fight choreography in recent memory – as well as nuanced dialogue exchanges with a number of Hollywood’s top acting talent (Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor, among others).

The Haywire storyline is ultimately pretty straightforward. At times it comes across as less of a driving force for the characters and more of an excuse for Carano to showcase her action chops. She plays Mallory Kane, a highly sought-after contract spy who suddenly finds herself on the run after her former employer (and ex-lover) Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) attempts to have her killed. In order to expose her handler’s betrayal, Mallory must fight through a number of life-threatening scenarios, while Kenneth (along with similarly shady individuals) throws everything from local law enforcement to highly-trained mercenaries in her way. While the plot isn’t as sharp as some of Soderbergh’s other films (Ocean’s Eleven and Traffic), the narrative still succeeds at delivering an intriguing action-drama piece filled with interesting character dynamics – all grounded in some truly rough-and-tumble fight choreography.

Gina Carano Haywire Movie Haywire Review

Gina Carano in action as Mallory in ‘Haywire’

As mentioned, Carano holds her own as both a rising action star and a capable actress. It’s actually refreshing to see Carano popping up on the Hollywood radar under Soderbergh’s wing instead of a less subtle filmmaker (like Michael Bay or Paul W.S. Anderson). Instead of a vapid, ass-kicking piece of eye candy, the director smartly positioned Carano to be taken seriously for her acting and not just her ability to choke a man out with her thighs. As a result, it’s easy to see that both Haywire and Carano’s future acting endeavors will both benefit greatly from Soderbergh’s approach. Mallory has to wear a lot of different faces in this film, and while a few of them are depicted with less success than others, there’s never a moment where Carano’s inexperience shines through – and, more often than not, the rookie actress (we’re not counting her direct-to-DVD film, Blood and Bone, with Michael Jai White) actually manages to offer up some intriguing and convincing complexities.

The tone set by Soderbergh and Carano also requires the supporting cast to step up their physical game as well – with some truly hard-hitting sequences for Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, and Channing Tatum. In addition to the physical moments, pretty much everyone involved manages to present interesting and nuanced onscreen drama – with some memorable (and lengthy) single take dialogue exchanges between characters.

While Haywire is definitely an entertaining ride with some fun set-pieces and killer fight sequences, it’s possible that some moviegoers will feel that despite its good points, the film is ultimately pretty thin. Most of the characters involved are interesting to watch moment to moment but don’t get to enjoy actual over-arching story progressions. Plus, nearly every characters is a static image, unchanged by the events that play out, until Mallory either rescues or kills them.

Ewan McGregor Haywire Haywire Review

Ewan McGregor as Kenneth in ‘Haywire’

Even Carano’s Mallory isn’t given very far to grow – and while she’s believable and interesting, Soderbergh’s “force of nature” approach to the character removes a bit of tension as the story progresses – since most of Mallory’s “slip-ups” aren’t actually her fault. In their attempt to make Mallory one of the most accomplished covert operatives in the game – the filmmakers wrote themselves into a corner. If Mallory screws up, she’s not badass enough; however, inconvenient things need to happen to her to keep the story moving. As a result, a number of situations that force the plot forward are actually just the result of random events – such as a forest scene where Mallory out-maneuvers two police cruisers and is only thwarted by a disconnected external encounter.

Though it doesn’t detract from the scene-to-scene enjoyment, the story beats remove a lot of responsibility from Mallory’s shoulders, allowing her to be both top dog (rarely making mistakes) as well as action fodder (pulled back into the story through “not her fault” events). As a result, Haywire features a number of scenes that while enjoyable, are a bit too convenient with a protagonist that is exceptionally entertaining to watch but isn’t really forced to own any of the fallout – even though her actions do, at times, put friends and loved ones in jeopardy. Ultimately, the filler between the action set-pieces can be pretty interesting but it’s hard to escape the over-arching sense that showcasing Carano’s fighting chops is priority number one.

The Haywire plot isn’t Soderbergh’s strongest and the filmmakers obviously struggled a bit in balancing Mallory’s kick-butt onscreen action with the larger movements of the story. However, few of the film’s shortcomings ultimately detract from the minute to minute onscreen ride – which benefits greatly from the director’s smart visual flourishes and Carano’s fresh (and uncompromising) approach to action. Some moviegoers might ultimately scoff at details in the film’s narrative – but watching Carano throw her entire body and soul into Mallory never falters in delivering compelling onscreen action.

If you’re still on the fence about Haywire, check out the trailer below:


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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick - and let us know what you thought of the film.

Haywire is now in theaters.

Our Rating:

4 out of 5

TAGS: Haywire
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  1. Carano made me want to see it (huge crush, pun intended), but probably on DVD. The review makes me want to see it more. Kind of interested to hear what other people say after seeing it.

    • I saw it yesterday in an advanced screening, well, only 1 day in advanced, but it was really good actually. The trailer actually makes it look worse than what it is. The story shown in the trailer is so cliche, but it turns out to be slightly different in the actual movie and much better. And I have always complained that even though the actress is a real MMA fighter, some of the fighting moves they show in the trailer are pretty fake, but really, they seemed to only pick out the “cool” looking moves for the trailer, the fighting in the actual movie is 99% grounded and believable. So I say watch this movie, you’ll like it.

  2. At certain points of the movie, the voices just sounded off to me. If the trivia on IMDB is correct, they lowered her voice. Which was really kind of off putting for me.

    Besides that, it was a good movie.

    • There was something weird from time to time with the voice-over. I assumed it was because a lot of the dialogue was re-recorded afterward. A lot of Mallory’s conversations occurred while she was physically off-screen (maybe so Carano didn’t have to keep it together for lengthy exchanges?). It didn’t distract me too often but, as mentioned, was noticeable.

  3. i’m not gonna watch this expecting some hardcore drama piece, to me this is just a fun ‘showreel’ movie for her and that’s all that really matters – her kick a** in style for the camera :D
    if its anything like blood and bone or other straight to dvd style movies then the boys and i shall have a fun time watching this with beers in our hands :D

  4. I was going to ask the same thing about her voice alteration. I’m planning on watching a couple of interviews before going to see the movie to see if I can tell the difference. They have a great cast for the film and I’m glad that it sounds like it came together nicely. The only thing that was a turn off from the trailer was the stupid jumping off the wall kick. They did something similar in “Salt”. Who the hell would do that in a real fight?!

    • well random normal people who dont know how the fight wont

      but a real fighter would

      • Indeed and if you’re still not convinced that it could happen in real life then check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfMMcXyJIl8

        I think Carano shined as an action star but still has to prove herself in the acting department.

        • That was very impressive, I remember watching that and shouting “OH!!!” with my buddies. But, we still have to remember that was at the closing seconds of the final round and was a desperation move. Also, Pettis has practiced that while training. However, it can happen.

          Donnie Yen does it all the time.

      • that´s just fantasy, in the streets,can even an mma fighter,not fight like in the ring. believe me ,it´s all more hectical in real life. even as a professional you can´t choreograph your fighting-skills in seconds. in the ring,it´s different,ther you have rules how to fight. i don.t wanna take me on a high ross,but i am a real fighter,since i´m 12. it´s based more on defence and after some adrenalien,having a clear head to hit the right punch.

    • I’ve seen it multiple times in ufc and it has worked

    • @acslaterson

      I had the same concern from watching the trailers. But you know trailers, they need the “cooler” looking aerial moves to draw in the audiences. They literally picked out all of the fake moves for the trailer, the rest of the fighting is pretty gritty and realistic. If you watch MMA, you’d recognize a lot of the moves she does in the movie. So don’t worry, this isn’t crappy like Salt, that one was just only stupid fake movie style fighting moves…

      • Bruce Lee would have been proud of the fighting in this movie. There was a lot influence from his jeet kune do in the choreography. Of course MMA is influenced by it as well so that is probably why.

        All I can say is that I would not want to be the person who tries to rob Gina Carano on the street.

    • Saw it and thought it was great! The fighting scenes were awesome and the pacing of the film was extremely fast paced. In terms of action films I would give it a 5 out of 5, I thought Carano did awesome for being a newcomer.

  5. This was a pretty well written review. Much better than the crap i read at IGN. Even if Mr.Kendrick would’ve given it 3 stars, it was still pretty well written and he gets his point across..

    Its refreshing to see a female take the lead in an action flick that isn’t Jolie or jovovich(sp?). Unlike them, she’s trained and looks way better doing it. As a person that barely goes to theaters, this movie has me in its grips for some reason. 8 PM PST I’ll be sitting watching her open a can of whoop ass…

    • Cheers! Glad it was useful.

  6. I was on the fence about this film. However, I have not read a single bad review about it. I’ll have to check it out.

  7. karanoe kicks butt in dis movie ! really liked it :}


  9. Hey, great review. I’d like to go see the film as well.

    Kind of off subject request, but is there any chance you guys could post the ratings of the films you review somewhere (like under Tags, maybe)? I’ve got a 15 year old son who’d probably love this, but based on the material and rating, I’d have to decide. Just a thought.

    • stritch,

      Hey bud, not sure what exactly you’re asking for. Age appropriateness rating? That’s very subjective. When I was still writing reviews, I would usually add a note at the end if I thought the movie might be too intense for kids/young teens and I had a feeling that parents might be inclined to bring them to see it.

      If you mean a place where you can see our latest reviews with their scores, just click on “Movie Reviews” in the top nav and you’ll land on a page with a grid set up listing our latest reviews with their score below each one.


      • Hey Vic,
        Not asking for anything special. As of today, i never paid any attention to the rating on this film, but assumed it was R for violence (and anything else that would put it into the R category), but i may be wrong.

        My request was at the very top of the page where you’ve got the date, the name of the reviewer (in this case, Ben) and right below it, a tag, was to create another line where you could post the rating of the film, so right away, those of us reading the reviews would know the rating of the film your site is discussing.

        I’m sure, the site is built on a form and may be difficult to add another line, but it was just a thought. TBH, i don’t pay attention to ratings to much, but when my son walks up and says “I wanna see that film”, obviously, I need to look.

        I’m mostly thinking out loud here. It’s not important. there’s plenty of sites out there that will tell me how many F-bombs a movie drops along with every other little detail for the sake of kids watching.

        thanks so much!

        • Stritch,

          Oh! Yes, that’s a good point and it’s a detail easily added to the end of reviews, but building it into the system so it appears at the top is not exactly a piece of cake.


    • As Vic mentioned, it’s hard to say but the film definitely doesn’t have any especially gratuitous violence or sexual content. It’s mostly gun shot wounds and… well, a lot of hard-hitting (and realistic) physical violence. A 15 year old (based on my limited experience) probably wouldn’t see anything new here.

      • What about F-bombs? Unfortunately, my 2 sons have heard the word before (not from me) but I still don’t like to contribute to children hearing that word, among others.

        • Gotta be something in there to make it an R instead of a PG-13. Haven’t seen it myself yet.


        • I can’t remember for sure but, as Vic mentioned, I’m guessing language as well as the brutality of some of the fights (not blood but just a lot of very realistic fist-to-face action) definitely contribute to the rating.

  10. We have our Wonder Woman for the silver screen.

    • Perfect for the role

  11. that´s just fantasy, in the streets,can even an mma fighter,not fight like in the ring. believe me ,it´s all more hectical in real life. even as a professional you can´t choreograph your fighting-skills in seconds. in the ring,it´s different,ther you have rules how to fight. i don.t wanna take me on a high ross,but i am a real fighter,since i´m 12. it´s based more on defence and after some adrenalien,having a clear head to hit the right punch. and i don´t like soderhberg movies,but this one i´ll definetily watch!


  13. The way I see this film, it was a way for Soderbergh to showcase Carano, as Kendrick said, as a “Force of Nature”, one (wo)man army, action film in a very slick way. Yes, Carano is no Cate Blanchett, but, Soderbergh did what all great filmmakers do with newcomers or athletes. They surround them with thespians that can save these guys.
    Its hard not to suck when you have Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Magneto and Bill Paxton carrying the weight and helping you.

    Look at Jim Brown back with the Dirty Dozen. You had Lee Marvin, Sutherland, Cassevetes, etc. I know what I am expecting with this film and hope to be enjoyed by it.

    • Magneto = michael fassbender

  14. Please tell me she kills Channing Tatum? :-D

    Well, don’t tell me, let me be pleasantly (hopefully) surprised.

  15. Even though I haven’t seen it yet, it seems like a modern version of”The Assassin” with Bridget Fonda. If it’s anything like it, I can’t wait to see it!!!

  16. I thought the film was okay. Based on the previews I expected more. I enjoyed the movie but not enough to pay the $10.50 to go see it. Carano’s inexperience as an actor really came out and reminded me of the whole Rosie/Transformers 3 experiment. She wasn’t as bad as Rosie but it did make me wish I would have waited for the Blu Ray. If you’re a fan of just pure action and no dialogue then this film will please you. For myself, I want some kind of believable dialogue that will keep me interested and not voice-overs. I would give it a 2.5 stars. Great in the action department but everything else fell short

  17. Gina for Wonder Woman. That is all.

    • too tough,not ugly,but tough(but she will be a star in the martial arts-genre,for sure),that means direct-to-dvd b-movies.

      • i think with the right coaching she could be a good actress, keep her for all the female fighting roles and maybe some good sci-fi lke michelle rodriguez. she reminds me of that chick from aliens( Vazquez)

      • Disagree. I thought there were moments where she should a vulnerability that was very womanish and displayed a strong sexualness. To me, she spoke to who I think Wonder Woman is.

        They also made that joke in the movie.

  18. Thought this was pretty good the best part would probably have to be when she’s fighting Michael fassbenders character that fight was pretty awesome

  19. I was highly dissapointed. Like contagion also by the same director. Fassbender is the best actor in the movie and he didn’t have a huge role. Which is sad. Just didn’t enjoy it at all

    • I have to agree with you. All the eye candy and Alist actors did not save this film from the bore that it was.

  20. The fighting was sloppy and when they go to other scenes it takes u out of the movie

  21. The movie was decent, she cant act, but she can kick butt. reminds me of a female steven segal without the gut. i dont think the movie was anything more but t draw a crowd to display her skills and if someone teaches her to be sexy Look out angelina!!!!

  22. I have only three questions to the creators of Haywire: why Mr. Soderbergh chooses to tell a story to public that he cannot figure out and explain even to himself, second, why actors like Duglas, Banderas, McGregor want to do anything so secondary, vague and empty of any creative idea, third, what does a MMA fighter has to do with acting (not ACTION, but ACTING!). It was a huge disappointment and seemed to serve the director’s personal desire to promote a new so-called “actress”-fighter and nothing else … I really feel sorry for people who manage to find fine qualities of a great action-thriller in one of the most forgettable films of a new year.

    • Well mcgregor doesn’t get much work anymore besides beginners which we didn’t. Even get at my movie theatre I work at. The really thing that concerns me is the popularity of michael fassbender right now to take a role like this which was equel to his roll in inglorious bastards

  23. went and saw “HayWire” and let me say it is one of the worst, lamest movies this year if not for the last several years. It drags on and on, the close ups are extremely cheesy, So yea she’s mildly attractive and she can fight but even her fight scenes are boring after the first one. And he alleged “secret agent” job is so obvious, the movie just made no sense and was poorly done. This movie gets a fat F, just like Obama. So save your money and see Underworld, I hope I save somebody money and time with this movie review

  24. This is an overrated movie . . . at least to me. It could have been good, but the writing was weak, the pacing sloppy and the ending rather disappointing.

  25. I dont see anything wrong with paid actors taking a backseat to this action chic. The fight scenes were pretty good and wasnt choreographed like some of the actresses that we know couldnt fight like that. It was her first film, she’s not an actress but a fighter. after some practice, I’m sure she can and will be a better actress who can kick some major a$$

  26. I saw the film yesterday and found it to be pretty terrible. There appeared to be no story to it, just a lot of fight scenes. I did not find it entertaining at all. When I see a film I expect to see a story played out.

  27. She is WonderWoman. Any other casting is ridiculous. Your argument is invalid. :)

  28. I don’t see how this got 4 stars. I usually agree with most of the reviews on this website and this is the first time I’ve ever posted a comment because I feel so strongly about how bad this movie was. Her acting was SO bad. So much so I would cringe and look at my husband. Corny! Completely took me out of the story. Specifically at the line “you better run.” The movie was so boring. I thought it was going to be so much better. Huge disappointment!

  29. Well, I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for. I ,for one, was quite bored with this movie; and it did have a story, it was just boring. The fight scenes were very good (especially with Fassbender) but the dramatic parts dragged the movie down for me. I’d give it 3/5.