Haywire makes for an exhilarating ride

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Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Gina Carano, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Douglas.

You know the kind of brooding spy movie that’s basically a morality play with trench coats? Well, that’s not what makes Haywire tick. Director Steven Soderbergh gets down to basics with a bone-crunching tale of espionage and betrayal that doesn’t waste a lot of time on motives, logic, or long-winded speeches over tea.

What do we get instead? A story that begins in kick-ass overdrive and pretty much stays there. With a couple of notable exceptions, this is the kind of movie where extended brawling takes precedence over gunfire. But don’t worry about anybody not playing for keeps. If you like your fight scenes believably brutal, Haywire delivers like a whisky bottle to the head.

Former mixed-martial-arts fighter Gina Carano stars as covert operative Mallory Kane, a freelance troubleshooter whose latest assignment goes off the rails. When it becomes clear that her shady superiors are setting her up for a fall, Kane goes rogue.

Okay, so it’s not the most novel plot. We’re fed the standard line that Mallory is alluring, sophisticated, and dangerous. But Carano, an acting novice whose résumé includes a stint on American Gladiators, can come across a little like a pissed-off gym teacher. Next to a supporting cast that includes such seasoned pros as Michael Douglas and Ewan McGregor, it takes her a while to find her feet.

That said, her performance really does grow on you. Part of the attraction is the way Carano throws herself into the fight scenes with such total confidence. Soderbergh takes full advantage of her martial-arts skills, unafraid to linger on scenes that would traditionally employ quick cuts to mask the use of a stunt double. All told, Haywire makes for an exhilarating ride. The ending hints at a sequel. And Carano is easily tough enough to go another round.


Watch the trailer for Haywire.

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