JT Film Review

Haywire (2012)

Haywire Review
Review #168

3/5 star

Director – Steven Soderbergh

Cast – Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

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Steven Soderbergh is known for his “one for you, one for me” approach to film making. He’ll do the pop-oriented Ocean movies, but then turn around and do a movie like The Girlfriend Experience or Solaris, which can’t possibly be expected to be blockbusters. I like that approach. It gives him an opportunity to use some top-grade talent and production values in movies that might not otherwise have gotten them.

This one was definitely a “one for me” movie, at least in terms of box office returns, and partly in style. I wonder if the studio thought it would be one for them… It is a flat-out action movie that doesn’t stop for breath, and it has an all-star cast full of upcoming and established stars. So why wasn’t this a blockbuster? Why did it just appear for two seconds on our radar, and then disappear?

Well it’s a bit of a mess. The story is told in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, and it just confuses the hell out of us. The minimal dialogue doesn’t help either. Perhaps the intent with the flashbacks was to add something to keep us interested, in a movie that is distinctly single-minded. Not a bad idea, I suppose. But what we want to see from this movie is a) Gina Carano kicking ass, and b) all the other awesome actors getting their asses kicked. That would satisfy us, especially coupled with a smart script (which this is, no doubt) and a stylish director such as Soderbergh. But the convoluted flashbacks often leave us wondering who is who and where we are.

Soderbergh is a cold director, or seems to be from the movies I have seen, and a lot of his artsy choices here don’t really mesh with the material. This is a stylish B-movie at heart, and it shouldn’t really be spiced up too much. It loses its edge, and more importantly it loses its focus. This a cup of strong black coffee, but it’s been served to us in a tea-cup. Something is off.

Thankfully the casting director was on her toes for this one, though! Fassbender, McGregor, Tatum, Banderas, Douglas, Paxton. Already I want to see this movie. They are all great, with Ewan McGregor being a stand out as Carano’s slimy boss. I love this guy. I love that he will take on smaller roles, and deliver strong performances in everything he’s in. Perhaps the smaller roles are because he is not as much of a box office draw as he once was, but I’ll see this guy in almost anything.

OVERALL

Haywire is a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s skeleton is a perfectly stylish B-movie, but confusing plot elements and Soderbergh’s impersonal direction threaten to topple the whole house of cards. If there’s anything we need in an action movie its clarity, and we just don’t have it here. We end up with a movie that feels too pulp to be artsy, yet too artsy to be pulp.

Having said that, I am curious to see what this movie would feel like on a second viewing. If we have a grasp on the plot would we be able to appreciate it more? I would argue so. The cast is enjoyable, and Carano certainly impress us with her fight scenes (which are excellently choreographed). I might end up giving this movie a second shot, but I doubt most people would want to. I can give a cautious recommendation as a curiosity, but not much else.

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TRAILER

“Haywire” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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November 27, 2012 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

132 – Centurion (2010)

Centurion REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Neil Marshall

Cast – Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke, Imogen Poots, Liam Cunningham, JJ Feild, David Morrissey

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Gory, brutal, and bleak, you could say that Neil Marshall’s Centurion is a low-budget Gladiator. It’s nowhere as good as that excellent (no matter what Roger Ebert says) Ridley Scott movie but, frustratingly, it could have been, with a better script. A looser shooting style would have helped as well I think.

The story follows Fassbender as Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier whose group (the legendary lost Ninth Legion) is wiped out in Scotland by the Picts. Well, they asked for  it, being part of an invading force after all. Strangely, the movie doesn’t really go into that issue, but just focuses on Quintus and a couple comrades as they try to fight their way to the nearest Roman outpost.

Tracking them is a group of Picts led by Etain, played by Olga Kurylenko (perhaps best known as a “Bond girl” from Quantum of Solace). Etain is a warrior out for revenge, after being raped and forced to watch her family being killed, as a young child. She is a mute, and this seems to have enhanced her other abilities, as her skills stop only just short of a ninja. She is one lethal, ass-kicking babe.

Quintus is not sketched out very well, character-wise, and frankly no one in this movie is. This really affects the movie in a bad way, and is the most obvious problem here. The only reason we are given to care for these folks is to hope that we don’t have to see their heads split open by an axe, or their eyes speared through with arrows. Fassbender is fairly charismatic, to be sure, but I would have loved to have seen more. Some subtle delving into these characters pasts perhaps, (other than sitting around a fire and asking “Where are you from” a couple of times), before the next fight/chase scene. The unsure and clumsy climax doesn’t help much either, though where we end up is interesting.

Not to bash the action sequences, which are generally quite good. Neil Marshall does know how to ratchet up tension, and some sequences are quite tense. One scene in particular had me really paying attention, a scene toward the beginning where Quintus’ fellow soldiers are all massacred. The editing is quick and rhythmic; we are shown quick successions of shots where one impact (usually a killing blow) is delivered. We hear and see one death after another, THWACK, TWACK, SLICE, THWAK. It was unnerving, and very effective.

Centurion has a strange contradiction in style. It has a gritty and brutal production design, with harsh landscapes and tense set pieces; yet the camera work is restrained, even sedentary, with a colour design that can be beautiful, yes, but with an almost shiny sheen, that works to counteract the production design.I would have loved to see this movie shot in the style of films like Children of Men. Less shine, more grime. Less restrained camera work, more “documentary style”. I think that would have helped immerse us in the movie a bit more. Add a stronger script and we’re all set.

OVERALL

Centurion never realizes the potential of its premise, as the script reads like a plot summary, rather than a finished project. The action sequences are entertaining though, and Fassbender makes for a good leading man. Some interesting things happen, but could have been done better. With all things considered Centurion is a missed opportunity, but yet is not quite an awful experience. Recommended only if you are into medieval action flicks. Or Fassbender’s abs… there’s a LOT of those on display!

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TRAILER

“Centurion” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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December 29, 2011 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment