A covert operations specialist working for some CIA offshoot goes rogue upon discovering that the people he trusted are planning his execution. If that sounds like the basic premise of USA Network’s popular series, “Burn Notice,” you’re right. For some reason, however, director Steven Soderbergh, who won an Academy Award in 2000 for “Traffic” and has had a hit-and-miss track record (more miss) since then, has decided to make his own action thriller about a renegade who takes on “The Company.”
Trust me: You’re better off watching an episode of “Burn Notice.”
Soderbergh and longtime production partner Gregory Jacobs must have known that the film needed something fresh, and so they were wise to have women’s mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano play our protagonist, Mallory Kane. Carano shows that she is more than able to play a part that has normally been reserved in the past for such male action heroes as Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not only did she do her own stunts but her acting is surprisingly good. That is an even more remarkable accomplishment considering how putrid the script is. Angelina Jolie now has some competition for future action roles.
“Haywire” starts out somewhere in upstate New York (in reality it’s northern New Mexico), where a former colleague, Aaron (Channing Tatum), is seeking to capture Mallory for her role in a botched rescue of a Chinese dissident journalist who was being held captive in Barcelona. After the obligatory bloody fisticuffs, Mallory escapes by commandeering a car and a confusing flashback begins. We see Mallory and her team successfully spring the man in Barcelona but a week later she discovers his body in Dublin. Why he was killed in Dublin and why he was imprisoned by Studer (Matthieu Kassovitz), a very stylish European mobster, is a mystery.
As the movie unfolds through its 93-minute run time very little in the script makes sense. Soderbergh clearly let screenwriter Lem Dobbs have too much free rein and it must have been when he was getting near the end of the film’s production that he realized he had a very serious problem. The final 10 minutes of this flick desperately try to tie up the myriad of loose ends and explain the complicated relationships between the characters but to little avail.
Soderbergh has a great Rolodex, as he was able to get such marquee names as Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Michael Douglas to appear in this turkey. Douglas plays a variation of his “Wall Street” Gordon Gekko character and is clearly mailing it in. Paxton must be looking for something to do in light of the end of his long-running HBO series, “Big Love.” Banderas clearly saw an easy payday working in his homeland while Scotland native McGregor got to work not far from his. I hope they had fun because the audience sure doesn’t.
The executives at Relativity Films who gave the go-ahead for this mess must have gone haywire themselves.