Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What If Salt Wasn't a Cartoon?

With another low end mid sized budget, Haywire (2012) is Steven Soderbergh's latest foray into serving two masters at the box office. The movie appeals to those who will be entertained watching Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) running and getting into hand to hand combat, in no less than five sequences, spanning the entire duration of this whopping ninety minute powder keg; and, it similarly holds a draw for those entertained by watching the conspiratorial intricacies of the ensemble unfold, at an explosive pace, before diving back into themselves for somewhat of a coda.

Late in the film, there's a scene where Michal Douglas plays a high ranking government official who makes comments effectively pathologizing the type of personality Mallory Kane has, which in a way represents the two halves of the audience and how they need each other. He says he knows how it must feel for her to run around, always looking over your shoulder, and how she needs that rush. So, he's admitting that he's exploiting her and that he knows exactly how to do so.

It feels like that's what Soderbergh's done, successfully.

However, it may be unfortunate that there just isn't enough time to connect with any of these characters on any significant level. Moreover, all of the events depicted in the film occur in only eight days. But this unfortunate characteristic distills the very nature of Mallory Kane: she doesn't have time for any of this either, due to the nature of her lifestyle. We're made to feel what it's like to be swept up in her roller coaster of an existence--one second running, the next chasing, constantly.

Most of the film's urban locations are complimented with what sounds like 70s Blacksploitation funk-fused chase tunes. The music never felt intrusive or like it suffered from caricaturing the lead protagonist, which could easily have been the case because of the fantastically high stakes this young woman must negotiate. If however, that sort of thing is your bag, Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce) is nothing short of an absurdist cartoon of the female spy on the run plot. I enjoy Salt, but the difference with Haywire is that I actually think while enjoying it, and can buy into the story.

The cinematography wasn't as expressionistic as Contagion (2011, Soderbergh), which is interesting because it shows Soderbergh's restraint. Or, what I'm trying to say is he could have gone a lot bigger and louder with this, but I like the understated approach. He's still managed to film in predominately daylight (overly blue) or tungsten (overly orange, or yellow) settings, to provide some added dimension to the locations dramatically. And the black and white shots from the mission to rescue Jiang are employed nicely, to distinguish this single narrative thread from a total of three concurrently played out onscreen, ending with all three threads converging in black and white. On the technical side though, the dolly shots tracking Mallory running through the Barcelona back alleys are marvelously fluid and alive with open air realism.

The editing of Mallory's part in the Barcelona mission is so quick and effective. Soderbergh and Stephen Mirrione are able to achieve such precision that it's almost something I take for granted. With Haywire, I wasn't disappointed.

--Dregs

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1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Salt is an okay precursor, particularly since both movies are explicitly ambiguous about the morality/reliability of the protagonist. But the movie I kept coming back to during Haywire was last year's underseen Hanna.

9:50 AM  

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