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Film review: Steven Soderbergh's 'Haywire' puts up a great fight

January 20, 2012|By Andy Klein
  • Gina Carano stars in Relativity Media's 'Haywire.' (Photo courtesy of Claudette Barius 2011 Five Continents Imports, LLC.)
Gina Carano stars in Relativity Media's 'Haywire.'…

Nearly half of Steven Soderbergh's films could be characterized as thrillers or crime films. Within the Soderbergh spectrum, the new “Haywire” falls a lot closer to “The Limey” in terms of tone and focus than to the “Ocean's” trilogy or “Out of Sight.”

Interestingly, he seems to have constructed this project as a showcase for Gina Carano, heretofore not an actress but rather a mixed martial arts star, specializing in Muay Thai boxing. It's not the first time he's centered a film on a performer known more for physical prowess than acting; he did something similar with adult movie star Sasha Grey in 2009's “The Girlfriend Experience.” The results are far more satisfying this time around.

Carano plays Mallory Kane, member of a freelance special ops team managed by former boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). When we meet Mallory, she's on the run; pursuer Aaron (Channing Tatum) has just caught up with her in a roadside diner. Despite the fact that Aaron is a block of muscle, with the advantage in height and weight, she beats the living daylights out of him in a sudden, brutal fight — the first of many.

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In her getaway, she presses into service innocent bystander Scott (Michael Angarano) and his car. As they speed off, he asks why she is being chased. Amazingly, she answers him in detail through a series of flashbacks that make up roughly two-thirds of the film. Why is she telling him all this obviously sensitive information? Wouldn't this be one of those “I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you” situations? And to what extent should we believe her?

The tale she spins has to do with a mission in Barcelona, where a team including her and Aaron liberate/kidnap someone held hostage, followed by a much more complicated assignment in Dublin. The Irish caper uncomfortably teams her with a stranger, Paul (Michael Fassbender), who may have an agenda she's not privy to. Lurking in the story's background are powerful manipulators (Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Mathieu Kassovitz) with their own mysterious goals.

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