"Haywire reunites director Steven Soderbergh with screenwriter Lem Dobbs," begins Josef Braun. "Though not as revelatory or formally engaged as The Limey, the pair's 1999 sleeper, which marked a comeback for its star, Terrence Stamp, Haywire is nevertheless, like The Limey, a smart, playful vamp on old tropes: lone wolf hired muscle takes a gig that turns out to be a double-cross; she becomes a loose end; corrupt former employer now seeks to eliminate her... you know the tune. Like The Limey, Haywire is also a film unusually concerned with geographical coherence, thus we get chase scenes that work up quite a sweat ensuring that we understand exactly how we got onto the fourth floor of this particular building or down that particular alleyway — there's even a pair of demonstrative scenes in which our heroine, Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), carefully consults a covert GPS device. Soderbergh, as always, operating as his own cinematographer, knows that one of the problems with modern action flicks is that they're disorienting in all the wrong ways. In a film that's all about escape, pursuit, concealment and ambush, identification is dependent on knowing where the hell we are."
At one point in Haywire, Mallory Kane "takes a fall while scaling down a drainpipe and hits the ground with a crunch that knocks the wind out of you," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice. "It's a short drop, but that landing hurts. As cartoonish live-action and photorealistic cartoons reign at the multiplex, all but obsoleting the laws of gravity, Haywire puts the impact back into screen violence, brings it back to earth."
"Carano is obviously not a natural born actor," notes Paul Constant in the Stranger. "When called upon to emote, she generally bites her lip, and whole sentences occasionally fall, stillborn, out of her mouth. But she attacks acting the way she fights: instinctually and with a lot of passion. She's on the same acting scale as Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sylvester Stallone, only further up on the believable human end. She'll never win an Oscar, but she could become a decent Bruce Willis – type action star in three good movies or less."
In Slant, R Kurt Osenlund suggests that Haywire "aims to avoid charges of misogyny and fetishism by putting a feminist spin on the Bond formula, surrounding an ultra-cool female agent with pretty, disposable male heartthrobs (among them: Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, and Ewan McGregor). Regardless of whether the whole thing works or not, the problem with Haywire is its overall lack of importance, as putting a Maxim model through a somewhat novel wringer doesn't quite constitute essential viewing."
"Politically, the film conceals its hand until late in the game," argues Vadim Rizov at Box Office. "Mallory's military background (and her father's mustachioed presence) hint at anti-government, off-the-grid libertarian paranoia, but the final explanation of what's behind all the chaos is, to use current conservative vernacular, anti-job-creators. 'I'm assuming the motives of everyone involved are strictly professional,' asks Fassbender's Paul. 'The motive is money,' answers his contractor, 'The motive is always money.' Combine this with grumbling from government official Coblenz (Michael Douglas) about the private sector's combined unaccountability and inefficiency, and there's more than enough material here to inflame conservative websites. The critique's as laconically pungent as anything else in the film, but no matter: at heart, Haywire is about the simple joys of action film virtuosity, and Soderbergh delivers."
More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 2/5), Richard Corliss (Time), AA Dowd (Time Out Chicago, 4/5), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times, 3/4), Kurt Halfyard (Twitch), Glenn Heath Jr (SanDiego.com), Robert Horton (Herald), David Jenkins (Time Out London, 4/5), Trevor Link, Wesley Morris (Boston Globe, 3/4), Andrew O'Hehir (Salon), Ray Pride (Newcity Film), Nathaniel Rogers (Towleroad), AO Scott (New York Times), Dana Stevens (Slate), Scott Tobias (AV Club, A-), Keith Uhlich (Time Out New York, 2/5), Adam Woodward (Little White Lies), Neil Young (4/10) and Stephanie Zacharek (Movieline, 8.5/10). Alt Screen's got a roundup and in November I gathered a batch of initial reactions from the AFI Fest.
Interviews with Soderbergh: Kaleem Aftab (Independent), Ben Kenigsberg (Time Out Chicago), R Kurt Osenlund (Slate), the Playlist, Nigel M Smith (indieWIRE), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Jennifer Vineyard (Vulture). And with Carano: Jessica Grose (Slate), Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Jennifer Vineyard (Vulture) and Jen Yamato (Movieline). Karina Longworth talks with Carano and Tatum for the Voice and the Playlist interviews Fassbender.
And finally for now, Ryland Walker Knight's selected this excerpt from Vineyard's interview with Soderbergh:
I wish movies mattered more. I wish they were more influential. I mean, they do influence things, but only things that are not that important, such as how people talk, how they dress. But in terms of having a real role in the ongoing debate about how everything should work, how lives should work, they're not influential. There was a period where I felt that the movies coming out were as good as any novel, as any form of serious art that you could look at, and I'm particularly frustrated by my inability to create something at that level. I watch older movies regularly, depending what I'm working on, for inspiration. But I'm just not that inspired right now.