January 22, 2012

Review: Gina Carano Goes 'Haywire'

"You shouldn't think of her as a woman. No, that would be a mistake."

Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean's Eleven) is a master journeyman filmmaker, hopping from genre to genre with ease and a fluid, seamless style. Haywire is a quiet yet punishing international thriller. The film is built around female MMA titan Gina Carano playing a covert agenet and mercenary for hire who is double-crossed on her last job.

Carano holds the screen with a tough as nails meets endlessly sexy presence. The fights scenes are brutal and feel as real as possible down to the minimalist sound design. Straight up, Carano's Mallory Kane character is a bad ass vixen. Her acting is less than compelling but Soderbergh covers it well enough.

Kane works for a dubious private contractor played by Ewan McGregor. Soon after being betrayed, she goes on the run, kicking some serious ass along the way. I forgot how thrilling hand to hand combat and fighting could be. I felt reminded of the Bourne trilogy minus the complicated international politics. Haywire feels like cookie cutter espionage novel on sale at the airport bookstore, but executed in the best way.

Using straightforward and simple yet inventively amusing narrative flourishes, Soderbergh keeps the viewer guessing from scene to scene despite a stanard, staple betrayal mission plotline. Haywire is stripped down to the bone with only a dozen are so characters (all men besides Carano). Even members of Kane's mercenary team are entirely superfluous.

Curano annihilates the likes of Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum, and McGregor and holds her own on screen Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, and Bill Paxton. The novelty of Curano's physicality and choreographed fighting never wavered with raw, visceral, punishing choreography.

Slid into cinemas during the new year doldrums and Hollywood dead zone after the jam-packed popcorn faire of the holidays, Haywire is a first class combat thriller. Soderbergh carefully crafts an old school action piece with artful European flair. Haywire is light but smart and sexy fun of the best kind.

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