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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Haywire

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service


Michael Fassbender and Gina Carano star in a scene from the movie "Haywire."
With the fairly suspenseful but frequently brutal thriller "Haywire" (Relativity), filmmaker Steven Soderbergh tries his hand at action-oriented espionage. Stylish and spare, the result plays like the work of a talented yet restless director ticking another genre off his list.

What moviegoers may appreciate most about "Haywire" is that it clocks in at a swift 93 minutes. What they'll likely find most disconcerting is its casual approach to violence, even after allowing for the life-and-death nature of international spying and covert military operations.

In recent years, this terrain has been dominated by the "Bourne" trilogy and slickly outlandish fare such as the Angelina Jolie vehicle "Salt." Soderbergh attempts to lend some authenticity to his variation by casting mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano in the lead role. That choice, together with the knowledge that the film's working title was "Knockout," provides an accurate barometer of what's in store.

Carano plays Mallory Kane, a former Marine engaged in black ops for a private company contracted by the U.S. government. We first meet the lethal brunette on the lam in upstate New York. How she became a fugitive is told in flashback, beginning with a Barcelona job during which she and several colleagues, including gung-ho Aaron (Channing Tatum), free a Chinese dissident being held by unidentified thugs.

Next, Mallory's boss and former boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) sends her to Dublin to work alongside British secret agent Paul (Michael Fassbender). It's during this assignment that she's double-crossed and forced to go rogue to find out who has betrayed her and why. American spymaster Coblenz (Michael Douglas) is somehow involved, as is Spanish diplomat Rodrigo, limned by Antonio Banderas.

Soderbergh's lively cinematography—along with a jaunty musical score, glamorous international locales, and a seasoned supporting cast—gives the picture ample flair. But since the plot and dialogue exist solely to provide Carano the chance to display her considerable fighting skills, there's not much substance to be found. Attempts to explore character and tease out the human drama in the scenario don't register.

The intense, precisely choreographed hand-to-hand fight sequences, along with several exciting chases, stand out. Kudos to Carano for performing her own acrobatic stunts (without the use of wires or special effects) and to Soderbergh for capturing them with his typical energy and panache. Unfortunately, Mallory shows no mercy as she tracks down her betrayers. Although she's clearly the wronged party, her ruthless response is nonetheless morally culpable.

Close combat is Carano's metier; as for Soderbergh, with "Haywire," he once again demonstrates that, though he's adept at making different kinds of films, he has yet to master any one form.

Obviously enthused by the challenges of staging and shooting a certain type of action film, and the opportunity to pay homage to its progenitors, he seems uninterested in its thematic or ethical content.
The door is left open to a sequel but don't expect Soderbergh to be at the helm. No doubt he'll have moved on to something completely different.

The film contains much fierce hand-to-hand violence and gunplay, brief gore, an implied nonmarital encounter, at least one use of profanity and of rough language, some crude terms and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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