Haywire (2011)

As a UK script consultant, I’m watching movies all the time, but somehow, I missed Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) the first time out.  

Soderbergh directs a lot of films across different genres, and in one subset of his career he has become a kind of purveyor of the heist / caper film with the Ocean’s trilogy and Logan Lucky. Whatever you think of those films, there are some good, funny and very intelligent bits of directorial business in all of them. And they kind of work to grind the comedy heist genre down to its bare bones.

Haywire–is a hitman / spook type film, written by Lem Dobbs, and he and Soderbergh work hard to do the same to this type of film. They reduce the dialogue, up the action, keep characterisation to a minimum, and grind the film down to its very pure action elements – shoot kill, run, escape.  At times, probably during the best extended action scenes, it reminded me a little of the work of such genre purists as Jean Pierre Melville (Un Flic)  and even Walter Hill (The Driver / Hard Times).

But, I hate to say it, The Bourne Films have already done that to this genre. And Soderbergh and Dobbs arrive late to the scene, and Haywire (2011) often feels like a Bourne film, with less emotional punch – but, with a startling female lead.

Gina Carano is in the lead role, an attractive young lady who also happens to be an ex MMA fighter. As expected from someone with a background in martial arts – she can fight, do her own stunts and looks the business in the action scenes (she can act pretty well too). But, the action scenes themselves often look too much like Bourne – I know this is how these guys and gals are trained to fight, but Soderbergh is a clever enough director to think of different ways to shoot and stage things. In the large part, he doesn’t. Although,  it’s worth mentioning, that stunt and fight co-ordinators often have a hands on role actually directing scenes of this nature – where actors could get hurt with a mistimed kick or punch – so, it may not be all Soderbergh fault that the fight scenes feel a bit too much like Bourne, but it’s a weak excuse.

Michael Douglas rocks up in a few scenes with impressive matter of factness, and Ewan McGregor is good as Carano’s handler, watch how he does some quick clever work to suggest that his character is a bit of a scumbag.  It’s also lovely of course to see the late Bill Paxton playing Carano’s dad.

I enjoyed the film a lot, as I said, its hard-boiled action taken down to its elements. But, I think with Soderbergh I just expected a little more. Maybe I’m wrong to do so, because this type of film is very hard to do well.

Matthew Cooper has been a scriptwriter for hire, UK Script editor  and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. His UK script coverage service, Script reading service and script development service are highly sought after.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham was released in 2020. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.