Betrayed by her bosses, a freelance black-ops agent goes on the run in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, a taut action thriller that is as briskly efficient and muscular as its heroine.
Played by mixed martial artist Gina Carano, lean, mean ex-Marine Mallory Kane flees from a bruising encounter in an upstate New York diner with one of her former colleagues (Channing Tatum) in the film’s opening scene, dragging a hapless bystander (Michael Angarano) along with her. As she makes her escape in his car, she apprises him, and us, of the events that have led her to this pass – a mission gone awry in Barcelona and a double-cross in Dublin, both shown in flashback. The narrative device is a tad cumbersome but all is forgiven whenever Carano launches herself into action.
‘You shouldn’t think of her as a woman. That would be a mistake,’ Mallory’s shifty employer Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) tells British agent Paul (Michael Fassbender), her Dublin contact, but it’s Carano’s gender that raises the stakes in each showdown, provoking flinches and gasps from the audience when she trades punishing blows with her male assailants.
But Haywire isn’t simply a Bourne-style knockoff that happens to have a female lead. Lethal and graceful, Carano really does have the chops as a fighter. This means Soderbergh doesn’t need to fall back on the frenetic flurries of fast cutting that usually generate a sense of peril in action movies but can settle back and admire his star’s prowess. As do we. True, Haywire’s generic plot is strictly B-movie fare, but Carano and A-list support from the likes of Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Fassbender and McGregor give the movie class.
On general release from Wednesday 18th January 2012.
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