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Aural Fixation: ‘Haywire’ Brings the Violence, Composer David Holmes Keeps It Playful

By  · Published on January 19th, 2012

Audiences have been eagerly awaiting the release of soon-to-be retired (or so was once widely claimed) Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, Haywire, after advanced screenings confirmed what the trailer suggested – a literally kick-ass time at the movies. Starring a Hollywood unknown, Gina Carano is known more for her mixed martial arts skills and those skills are put to the test on the big screen as she goes up against a powerful boys club comprised of the likes of Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Fassbender. Playing a black ops solider betrayed by her company, Carano is forced to not only figure out why she was double crossed, but do so while trying to keep herself from being killed in the process (and leaving an impressive body count of her own in her wake.) Soderbergh turned to composer David Holmes to create the musical landscape for a film that is not only action-packed, but also dramatic, thrilling, emotional, even funny at times and overall – fun.

But what made this film such a fun time at the movies? Many factors of course (the story, the actors, the direction), but the element that seemed to keep this idea of playfulness running throughout was provided by the score, and almost subconsciously so. Holmes is no stranger to scoring a film that flips the script every other scene and forces the audience to not only try and keep up with the action, but unravel the truth behind the story as well. He rose to this task with two other Soderbergh films (Ocean’s 11 and Ocean’s 13) and slight influences from those scores can be heard here.

Soderberg’s films are more of a dance than a battle with the different players and characters moving around (and in Haywire — against) one another as one-person works to get the upper hand over someone else or a new piece of information is revealed. Holmes’ almost jazz-like style is the perfect accompaniment to this idea of changing beats and his score succeeds in keeping things light – quite the feat when Carano (Mallory) is giving Fassbender (Paul) a no-holds-barred beat-down. But make no mistake, the punches, kicks and all out ass-kicking Carano unleashes against her attackers are no joke and Holmes’ score keeps up with the action, but does so in a way that always makes it feel like more of a high stakes game than an outright onslaught.

The first song on the score (aptly titled “Haywire”) sets this tone with booming horns paired with strings and piano (sounding almost Pink Panther-like) creating this idea of mirroring the intensity on screen and combining it with more light-hearted musical elements. Admittedly, when I got to see a screening of Haywire during AFI FEST last year, I was so wrapped up in the film itself that the music did not really resonate with me at the time, but listening to the score now it is clear how the music truly worked as an undertone to the film. Songs like “Shot In The Face” filled in the gaps between fists hitting jaw lines (like I said, the fight scenes live up to the hype) while pieces like “Sniffing Around” and “Looking For Clues” helped transition the mood from reflective with Carano telling her story to unsuspecting get away companion Scott (Michael Angarano) to aggressive when she lays a beating on someone. When listening to the score it’s own this influence shines through and in hindsight helped to counteract the violence and intensity on screen in an unexpected way that still worked.

Haywire is certainly a thriller and the score works to keep the audience on edge, but never fully alarmed. This style is in tune with Soderbergh’s approach of raising the stakes, but doing so in a way that leaves you waiting for that wink to hint that things are not exactly what they seem right before he turns the tables once more. Sometimes you just want a fun action film that may not change the face of filmmaking, but leaves you with a smile on your face. Soderberg succeeded in delivering that feeling with Haywire and thanks to Holmes’ score, each punch, kick and jab felt like beats you could either fight or dance to.

The soundtrack for Haywire is available through Relativity Music Group.

  1. “Haywire”
  2. “Upstate NYC”
  3. “Barcelona”
  4. “Stakeout”
  5. “Let’s Get Jiang”
  6. “Delivering Jiang”
  7. “Dublin”
  8. “Sniffing Around”
  9. “The Drive Rossbourgh”
  10. “Looking For Clues”
  11. “Jiang’s Dead”
  12. “Shot In The Face”
  13. “Dublin Chase”
  14. “Against All Odds”
  15. “Against All Odds, Pt. 2”
  16. ‘The Ship Comes In”
  17. “No Eye Dear”
  18. “Where’s Kenneth”

All the songs on this soundtrack composed by David Holmes.

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