At Sunday’s world premiere “secret screening” of Haywire at the AFI Festival, Steven Soderbergh was introduced as being full of surprises. I admit to being a little surprised when it was first announced—more than two years and 1,000 posts ago—that the Oscar-winning director of such arthouse staples as Sex, Lies and Videotape, Schizopolis and Kafka and glossy, big budget studio movies as Ocean’s 11, The Good German and Erin Brockovtch would be directing an action movie starring Mixed Martial Arts fighter (and former American Gladiator) Gina Carano—something that doesn’t really fit into either of those categories. A little surprised, anyway… but not much, really. After all, he’d already cast a non-actor in a leading role when he tapped porn star Sasha Grey to topline his indie film The Girlfriend Experience. I just figured he wanted to do something different, and that he would make a fairly straightforward martial arts action movie in the vein of the better Van Damme and Seagal flicks of the early 90s. Where he really surprised me was with the resulting film, which is not a straightforward martial arts action movie, but a sort of arthouse action movie that I honestly believe will satisfy both those disparate viewing demographics rather than alienating either one. Personally, I would have been totally fine had Soderbergh wanted to just do his Colombiana (a movie I really liked), but instead he delivers a film that is to Colombiana and Salt (review here) what The Limey is to more standard revenge-oriented noirs. Haywire is both artistic and highly entertaining at once, delivering some of the best fights I’ve ever seen in a spy movie in a distinctive and unexpected visual style more similar to The Informant! or Solaris than Ocean’s 11.
Haywire opens wide in North America on January 20, 2012.