It’s no secret that Steven Soderbergh essentially just built a movie around MMA fighter Gina Carano because he caught one of her fights. While the backdrop of Haywire is seemingly a web of international intrigue, it’s actually pretty simple, and the director seems less interested in making a film so much as toying with action movie conventions, improvising like a jazz musician. It’s appropriate then that the score employs various jazz tunes set during the non-fighting sequences (which have no music, and no enhanced fisticuff sound effects) and the music, like the movie, has moments that gel and moments that don’t.
While not a great film, it’s intriguing to watch Soderbergh riff, see the surprisingly all-star cast that surrounds Carano (Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas) and realize that she holds her own in screen presence and acting chops. I’m certain we’ll see more from her.
As a black ops soldier seeking payback after being betrayed and set up, Carano plays Mallory, a woman so enigmatic she’s effectively a force of nature (albeit very human and fallible in Soderbergh’s steady hands). It’s hard to glean a lot from her stiff-lipped character in the narrative, but as we see a string of men get their comeuppance at the hands of this relentless woman, I realized there are very human reasons why they fall under her strong will, which make it intriguing as a character study less of Mallory and more of the men who misjudge her.
“You shouldn’t think of her as being a woman. That would be your first mistake.”
Aaron – Underestimating
Channing Tatum shows up as Aaron and, instead of the usual bad-ass we expect antagonists to be in a typical action flick, he confesses to being tired. He complains he’s driven all night and whines that Mallory’s situation dragged him out of bed. He’s irritable, uncomfortable, and in every way misperceives the gravity of the situation. He underestimates the implications of what’s going on, underestimates the seriousness of the current scenario and threat, punctuates it by underestimating Mallory’s fighting prowess, her will, and the relentless ends she’ll go to in protecting herself. (Concurrently, he OVERestimates his own skills). Aaron is beaten before the films opening fight even begins.
How many times do we walk into situations like this in our lives? We overestimate our own abilities, underestimate the physical, psychological or spiritual opposition we’re facing, and get our prideful posterior soundly trounced and handed to us? We wander half-asleep through life itself, ignorant that there is a real conflict going on that may bubble to the surface and impact us at any second. We’re thoroughly unprepared to handle the “enemy” that may well devour us, be it the world, the devil or our own flesh.
Still, even being aware of these things doesn’t mean we won’t hesitate when it’s time to take decisive action.
“He who hesitates is lost” – Joseph Addison
Paul – Hesitating
One of the revealing things Michael Fassbender’s lets the viewer know about his character Paul is that “he’s never done a woman before”. While I certainly don’t condone murdering anyone (which would include said woman) it’s curious to see how Paul’s fascination with Mallory and his admitted trepidation lead to his undoing (which is pretty clearly shown in the trailer, so that shouldn’t be a spoiler). I’m glad he doesn’t succeed, but on another level it’s telling that, again, Mallory isn’t just victorious because ‘she’s perfect’. As Aaron underestimated her, Paul fails here by hesitating, by what appears to be some pulled punches and an unwillingness to commit. He’s undone by his own faltering, however slight (as he certainly is trying to kill her) whereas his prey has no reason to hold back.
Choosing a righteous course of action and then looking back has turned people into pillars of salt. Jesus once said that a man who puts his hands to the plow but looks back is clearly unfit. I’m actually happy when this happens to a villainous antagonist in a story, but how many times has it also happened to us? How many times have we been anything less than whole-hearted… and that wavering cost us a victory, cost us respect, cost us a relationship? Are we hesitating in areas that may have dire consequences for our life, for our soul? How high will the cost of this hesitation be?
Kenneth – Coveting
Actually, Ewan McGregor’s slimy character has a laundry list of issues and this one barely covers it. We could also throw in deceit, lust, bearing false witness, worshipping money, and more. He covets Mallory as a asset for his business and also, how do we say… covets her assets. Instead of chewing scenery, however, McGregor presents Kenneth as a fairly regular guy, one we can all probably say with shame that we relate to. Maybe our double-dealing doesn’t cross international borders and get people killed directly, but if we all are, or have been, in lifestyles and seasons where all we care about is our own bottom line.
If we want the butt-kicking heroine of the story to mete out some much-needed justice on Kenneth, what might that implicate we deserve? Our resonance with movies like Haywire might have less to do with the enigmatic protagonist and more to do with whether or not we’re transparent enough to recognize we relate with the compromised people upon whom the wrath is poured out.