Steven Soderbergh's Haywire follows a plot so thin that it's almost barely worth mentioning. The nuts and bolts of the story boils down to this: after being betrayed during a mission, a female special ops soldier (played by Gina Carano) is forced to take revenge on the people who set her up. It's the type of plot that would appear to serve one purpose and one purpose only: to play as a vehicle for some action tough guy (or in this case, tough girl) to knock a few blocks off. Meat and potatoes action, and nothing more. Such simplistic cinema needn't rely on any sort of depth, as such films exist simply as mindlessly fun action flicks meant to entertain our primordial instinct to watch people get their heads bashed in.
Instead of delivering an action platter served over a bed of bodies, Soderbergh, unsurprisingly, goes for a more artistic approach. As a result, much of the action you would come to expect from a plotless film built around a rookie actress whose selling point is the fact that she's a successful female MMA fighter is all left by the wayside in an attempt to do something more important. It's an odd choice bringing on a professional fighter in Carano to play a role where her screen presence is dictated more by her acting and charisma rather than her physical abilities. Even stranger is sticking her in the ring with actors who are, for the most part, some of the best working today, while Carano is barely at the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin level. As a result, Carano is completely left out to dry, playing big league ball with little league abilities.
It's unfortunate, really, because when Carano is given the chance to show off her stuff, she's quite brilliant. Her Mixed Martial Arts style of fighting translates well to screen, and Soderbergh does a fairly decent job of capturing some of these moments. Much like the film's big name actors diminish her acting skills to that of a grade school level church play, Carano makes a handful of those same actors look about as tough as Rudy Ray Moore pitted up against Bruce Lee. I wish I could say it was a fair trade off, but for Carano, it's not. Unfortunately, she had no business playing a role of this stature because she's simply just not qualified, and I think it shows a complete lack of respect for her on Soderbergh's part to put her in a position in which she cannot escape from (and I certainly cannot blame her for taking the role).
While I take issue with Gina Carano's acting ability and, more so, how she is utilized by her director, that's only the beginning when it comes to the issues that Haywire has as a film. One of the biggest problems that faces Haywire is the fact that there's no real care behind it. The film is essentially a mishmash of underdeveloped characters and a handful of poorly conceived filtered shots that come to be plundered by an obtrusively ill fitting and genuinely confused score that has no place in any film past 2002. Though, it should be said that this is a bigger issue in the first half, as the latter portion of Haywire plays slightly better in terms of a consistent style. Regardless, this only proves to me that Soderbergh has no sense of cohesion, or at least no care to try to put something together with any sort of thought, let alone heart.
Soderbergh's lack of passion is shown in how he pollutes both Haywire (and a number of his other films) with an inordinate amount of useless characters; character who only seem to exist as a reason for him to get one of his many Hollywood friends involved. Not one single character in Haywire has even the slightest ounce of meat to chew on. Each character is one dimensional, uninspiring and flat out boring, and no matter which one of these great actors fills the role, there is nothing to take away from the lot of them. I almost feel as if Soderbergh knows he can get whoever he wants to play whatever role, regardless of how lackluster the character is, so he simply doesn't even bother to put in any effort, and it shows. That, or he's incapable of writing good characters, which isn't hard to believe, either. To put it bluntly, there's no possible way that anyone will ever walk away from a film like Haywire with a single memory of any character or performance, save for Carano's, but that's for the completely wrong reasons.
With the kinds of films that he's been putting out over the past few years, Soderbergh seems to have set his directing sites on literally cranking out easy to digest, artistic laced genre films that significantly suffer from both a lack of competent style and ability as well as lack what makes a genre film fun or enjoyable. Instead of making a basic action flick staring a female MMA fighter, which is what he wrote and cast his lead for, Soderbergh attempted to make a classy, stylish action film. Now, I have no problem with that, so long as the movie is actually solid; however, the end result here is simply not very good, let alone competent or interesting. And no amount of attempt at style, groovy music or fantastic Hollywood actors will ever change that. Some might call Steven Soderbergh a risk taker. I simply call him lazy and boring, much like Haywire.