Haywire's style is almost minimalist. Long stretches of stillness and understated camerawork are punctuated by scenes of intense violence, explosive in their impact and physically visceral. The violence is, moreover, counterpointed by the very ordinary locations where it takes place: a diner, a Spanish street, a dry-cleaner's, a hotel room. However integral to the lives of its characters, Haywire recognises the absurd shock - or shocking absurdity - when violence breaches the boundaries of everyday life.
Characteristic of this film is a willingness to let the camera do the work. There's no loud, emotionally manipulative score, no CGI, no impossible stunts - although the fight choreography is outstanding - and the dialogue, while believable, is forgettable in a way the visuals are not. Gina Carano as Mallory Kane has a physical charisma that completely overshadows the film's men, though her colleagues read like a who's who of Hollywood's most eligable bachelors (Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender - although Fassbender can almost hold his own when in the same frame).
In a way, I want to compare Haywire to Hanna: they have a similar understated, accomplished cinematography, a similar counterpoint of quiet and intensity. But where Hanna has the quasi-mythical logic of a fairytale, Haywire marries the spy thriller to the woman-done-wrong - although in Haywire's case, refreshingly, the wrong done is professional. It's tense and compelling, and although Carano is practically the only woman in the film, very little about her is sexualised: you always have the sense that you're watching an athlete, a dangerous one.*
If Haywire has a flaw, it's that it packs so much implication into the actions of the players - the contracting company, the Frenchman, the government, the Spanish bloke who works for the State Dept. - and never tries too hard to clarify their motives. "Money. It's always about the money," is the one clear statement we do get, and that's not quite enough. But on the whole, it's a small flaw in a film that gets many things right.
A little googling uncovered the fact that Haywire, like Hanna, was made on a budget of less than half of the 2006 average cost of a major studio production, and less than a fifth of the cost of 2007's Transformers. Which leads me to say: Hollywood! Make more films like this! Fewer films like that!
Yeah, anyway. Go see it. Gina Carano is worth the price of admission.
(Also? Bonus shirtless Michael Fassbender.)
*Which of course you are, since Carano competes (competed?) professionally in Muay Thai and MMA.