'Haywire' Review: Hollywood's Newest Action Starlet Doesn't Need Acting Chops, Stunt Doubles

Few filmmakers have been more alert to the possibilities of working with non-professional actors than Steven Soderbergh. His 2005 “Bubble” was an exercise in trailer-park vérité, and the 2009 “Girlfriend Experience” provided a crossover showcase for porn star Sasha Grey.

Now Soderbergh has constructed a high-profile action picture around Mixed Martial Arts icon Gina Carano, a woman alarmingly skilled in the ways of head-kicking, gut-punching, throat-wringing and related modes of cage-match devastation. Unlike Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and other movie-land action chicks of the past, Carano demonstrates beyond doubt that if called upon, she actually could put you in the hospital.

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“Haywire” is an old-school spy-versus-spy espionage tale. It would be nice if the story (scripted by Lem Dobbs, who previously wrote Soderbergh’s Kafka and The Limey) made a little more sense; at some points you might wish it made any sense at all. Carano plays Mallory Kane, a black-ops specialist in the employ of an international security firm run by her shifty onetime boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan McGregor).

When a shadowy figure named Coblenz (Michael Douglas) commissions Mallory’s services in extracting a Chinese journalist from bad-guy captivity in Barcelona, Kenneth dispatches her there with a team that includes the prickly hunk Aaron (Channing Tatum); she’s also told to coordinate with an ambiguous local character named Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). The operation is a suitably tense undertaking, crowned by a back-alley smackdown in which Mallory, in an explosion of leg-sweeps and gob-smashes, reduces an oppo gunman to twitching insensibility. This is pretty great to watch, let me tell you.

Read the rest of the review at Reason.com