Haywire: when an ex-marine – now hitwoman – is framed for murder she has to set the record straight, by going straight to the top of the conspiracy. So it’s not the most original story, but the execution and tone make it stand out from the genre. It’s a stripped down travelogue spy thriller – somewhere between a Bourne film and The American – with a throwback feel, like those old-fashioned spy movies you watched with your grandparents. The action is gripping, particularly the Dublin chases and all hand-to-hand combat fighting. The lead actress (an MMA fighter by trade) works surprisingly well, even though she’s been surrounded by decent actors – as sensible backup – she doesn’t stick out much. There’s an interesting soundtrack with the odd scene having retro spy music, but mostly authentic audio that works very well during fights (grunting / punches / breathing), chases (footsteps / cars / traffic lights)… this pushes the dramatic envelope beyond what you normally get. Not unlike Contagion, Soderbergh has firmly rooted everything reality – I also see this as an important breakthrough role for Carano, who I envisage carving out a Statham/Dwane action niche. Continuously credible, and intense for the most part, Haywire is as good as it can be with the knowingly limiting story, and is as honest and believable a spy thriller as you’ll ever see.
Bangkok Adrenaline: four backpackers lose a card game and now own local gangsters 1 million baht – so they kidnap an heiress and everything kicks off. It looks like (and is) a mid-low budget film, but that gives it a cheesy-charming and admirable vibe; it also makes light of many B-movie action tropes, which is a good touch of humour. Filmed in Thailand and only 80 minutes long, the budget goes a long, long way here. it’s very ‘laddish’ – opening 10 minutes are identical to Lock, Stock – and it’s end-to-end packed with machismo / babes / fighting / gambling / cars /guns and even has a slow-mo walking scene! The story’s pretty simple but the action is an absolute roundhouse kick-o-rama; this is how everyone should choreograph, film and edit action set pieces! There’s about 5 jaw-dropping fight/chase scenes, and the final 20 minutes, all worth picking this up for alone – and all done to a higher standard that most Hollywood films. This won’t be for everyone, for fans on Tony Jaa / District 13 style films it’s a must-see action flick that delivers he goods.
Wrong Side of Town: an ex-marine has to get across town to save his kidnapped daughter – but he has a bounty on his huge head to gets his tiny-headed friend to help out. The opening scene and cool Bond-esque credits & song pricked my ears up straight away; unfortunately you soon realise that this can’t even be called legitimate acting – it’s a sad state of affairs when professional wrestler Batista pulls out the best performance in your film. On all other levels this really is “sub-movie” – story, script, direction, casting… you name it. A poor man’s JCVD – RVD – limps through the film, a fitting metaphor such a tragic film. If wrestlers running around looking badass with generic WWE metal intro music is your thing, then maybe this is worth a gamble. However, I usually take that stuff with a pinch of salt, but the only way I can sum this up honestly is by saying “Holy shit WWE! Must. Try. Harder.”