Gina Carano, the 29-year-old star of Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is not someone you want to get into an argument with. This mixed martial-arts fighter who punches, kicks, slams, smashes, and whacks her rivals into pulp, was cast by the filmmaker when he reportedly watched her in the ring on sports television.

In her first movie outing, Carano plays Mallory Kane, a highly skilled assassin who goes on the run when she realizes she’s been double-crossed by her boss and former lover (Ewan McGregor). We learn in the film’s first scene itself that she can more than take care of herself, when she beats the living daylights out of a former colleague (Channing Tatum) in a roadside diner in upstate New York.

Dragging along an innocent bystander from that diner, she makes an escape in his car, filling him – and us – in on the events that have led to this moment. In flashbacks we watch a rescue mission go horribly wrong in Barcelona, and then a brutal set-up in a Dublin hotel room involving another spy (Michael Fassbender).

For an espionage thriller, the script of Haywire is serviceable at best, and there’s very little tension leading up to the action scenes. But boy, what action! Shooting her fight sequences as cleanly as possible, Soderbergh shows us just how tough his star is…she’s smashed into mirrors, hit on the head with objects, kicked and punched. And she gives as good as she gets. There’s a clockwork precision in her hand-to-hand fight scenes, and prepare for your jaw to drop when she performs those wall-climbing backflips.

Carano is no Meryl Streep when it comes to acting, but she can hold a close-up. It helps that Soderbergh surrounds her with solid actors like Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, McGregor and Fassbender, but chances are your eyes won’t wander from her when she’s on screen.

I’m going with three out of five for “Haywire”. It’s a guilty pleasure, a thoroughly enjoyable B-movie for action buffs. Watch it strictly for its breakout star!

 

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