Haywire (R)

9 Stars

This film satisfies.

Specifically the urge to watch a female protagonist square off with a male in hand-to-hand combat, and realistically win.

I’ve never considered how ill-equipped women are for fist-fighting. But that’s probably a good thing.

With the long hair, the unstable shoe heels, and simply the lack of body mass for throwing punches; in reality, most male vs. female altercations won’t result in sophisticated brawls.

And I suppose that’s why we rarely see it in film. When reviewing Captain America: The Winter Soldier I mentioned how we never get enough combat from Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson.

Anyway.

Haywire is great.

The writing, directing, editing, casting, soundtrack/scoring and acting is fantastic. The fights are awesome.

Steven Soderbergh may be my favorite director. His movies never disappoint.

Side Effects podiums amongst the top three films of 2013. You may know him from the Oceans Eleven franchise, Traffic or Out of Sight.

Gina Carano’s biography on IMDB claims Soderbergh, “wrote the role of Mallory Kane specifically for her,” though the screenplay’s written by Lem Dobbs (who also wrote The Limey, another famous Soderbergh flick.)

I knew I recognized Gina C. She plays a great character in Fast & Furious 6!

Others may know her as the famous MMA fighter.

If you see the movie, you’ll understand why Soderbergh’s such a great director. The action is entirely more riveting without stunt doubles.

I dig that Gina Carano. She’s charismatic and lovable as the protagonist. Let’s hope we see more of her in future films.

The chase scenes are quietly spectacular. The plot moves along at a break-neck pace so you have to pay attention.

There’s something about the on-foot chase scene that’s gripping. When it really feels like the characters are sprinting for long periods of time, it’s so engaging.

Haywire’s stylishly edited and utilizes innovative storytelling techniques. One scene cuts between three different types of footage to show a trio of plots developing simultaneously. Plus, there’s no in-scene sound or dialogue, just the musical score.

It’s very cool! And slightly confusing. So pay attention!

The supporting cast is spectacular.

Channing Tatum never disappoints.

Ewan McGregor doing quality Ewan.

Bill Paxton doing quality Paxton.

Anotonio Banderas. Michael Douglas.

Michael Fassbender!

Come on. What more do you need?

Haywire is a top-notch action thriller available for HD rental through Xfinity OnDemand, Amazon or iTunes for $3.99.

There’s nothing special during the credits.

But it’s 93 minutes, and it’s an R-rated flick that men and women will both enjoy.

You might call it a great ‘date movie’.

Side Effects (R)

10 Stars

The word you’re looking for is ‘Captivation.’

It’s the concept everyone forgets when trying to articulate their reaction to a film.

But it’s the sole unifying factor for the viewing masses. It may be the single collective pursuit, the only aspect of movie-going everyone can agree upon.

We all seek captivation.

And Steven Soderbergh delivers it on a pallet-jack.

Side Effects is #3 on my ‘Best Films of 2013’ list.

It doesn’t get any better than this all-star cast. Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta-Jones are two of my favorite actresses, and they both pull off stellar performances.

I know it’s been said before, but CZJ ages like wine.

And Rooney Mara, sheesh, that little firecracker can act.

Need it even be mentioned Channing Tatum and Jude Law were great as always?

The plot is not only timely, intricate and moving, it’s exhilarating. The characters are compelling, and the central conflicts are rather complex. It’s tough to say who makes the right or wrong decisions, and the ending pays off all the mystery and suspense in a satisfying manner.

It’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. And also raises questions about the evils of psychology, especially when intertwined with the business world.

This is a fantastic movie, and didn’t get its due last award season.

See this film! But if you haven’t, watch out, I’m going to spoil some things below.

I watched G.I. Joe: Retaliation a day before Side Effects, and this turned out to be a good thing. I was definitely not expecting the twist about a third the way thru.

To be honest, I think I was sadder to see him go the second time. Give me CT in a big starring role one of these days.

But speaking of sadness: I must be honest. When I’m watching a movie with a buddy and it gets the waterworks running, I can do a pretty good job of containing the outbreak.

Twice I was gotten by Miss Mara. When Roon-Dawg almost steps on the train tracks, and when she can’t contain herself at the party because her depression is so severe – I draw some sharp breaths.

Those two moments were so moving, and then to have her character do a complete turn around by the end; that’s some masterful filmmaking.

And how about that ending, huh?

What it should not do is detract from Mara’s portrayal of someone who is clinically depressed. She delivers a moving performance that deserves particular respect because our perception of her character undergoes several transformations.

All in all, the spectacular ending ties off what already was a spectacular movie, with a shiny new ribbon.

Can’t wait to see what Soderbergh takes on next!