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Review: Haywire

Haywire lets Michael Fassbender down.

Inglourious Basterds. Hunger. X-Men: First Class. Shame. The man has more than established himself as one of this generation’s most talented, charismatic, and versatile performers. Yet Haywire wastes him in a role that exists only to move the story from Point A to Point B, a role that gives him less to do than 300, a role that could (should?) have been played by a hungry up-and-comer.

I can understand why Soderbergh cast him. Gina Carano is a remarkable MMA fighter; the viewer can feel the weight and force behind every punch she throws. But she’s not a remarkable actress. She recites her lines with a cool confidence, but doesn’t instill them with much emotional conviction.  So Soderbergh compensates by surrounding her with people like this:

And this:

And this:

But at least he gave these guys substantial parts to play. And when I say “substantial,” I’m referring to the quality of the material, not the quantity. Banderas works wonders in his limited screen time because the script allows him to show off his superb comedic timing (particularly in the humorous final scene). And Fassbender has shown that it doesn’t take him long to create a memorable character.

But where Inglourious Basterds gave him a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse, Haywire doesn’t provide Fassbender with much more than a fight scene and some dry exposition. He manages to convey brief glimmers of interior life (notably in the flashback with Ewan McGregor’s character—is that guilt in his eyes?), but at the end of the day he’s just the guy who betrays Mallory—a plot device.

When a director hires an actor of Fassbender’s caliber, he implicitly promises the audience that he will fully utilize that actor’s talents. So Haywire didn’t just let Fassbender down. It let me down. 

[Originally written January 30, 2012.]

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