Gina Carano's harder than Salt and Hanna combined

Against hefty odds, Gina Carano’s covert ops hard-nut Mallory Kane ably obliterates all comers in Steven Soderbergh’s revenge smack-’em-up. Likewise, Haywire delivers an agile drop-kick to doubts stacked against it.

It isn’t Soderbergh at his most Oscar-fit (Traffic), artful (Solaris) or ambitious (Che), but it’s dispatched with the brusque style of his keenest genre cuts (The Limey, Ocean’s Eleven), sending a smarting message to action flyweights everywhere: you do it like this.

MMA fighter Carano hasn’t acted before. Deferred release dates gave Soderbergh time to knock out Contagion since shooting it. Worrying signs, both. But no scars of post-production panic are visible.

More crucially, Soderbergh bests earlier work with a non-actor (The Girlfriend Experience) by cleaving closely to Carano’s strengths: you’ll believe she can do more damage than Salt and Hanna combined.

Limey writer Lem Dobbs’ globe-trotting script is cavalier at best, crude at worst. But it doesn’t faff about, opening and closing with the same word and mincing few others in between.

After Kane escapes a takedown bid by fellow operative Aaron (Channing Tatum), her backstory gets info-dumped to hostage-to-tell-plot-to Scott (Michael Angarano). Any remaining tidbits are spilled at the end, where shady, well-cast supporting roles (oily Michael Douglas, beardy Antonio Banderas) click into cursory focus.

But Haywire isn’t about story or character. It’s about slick, muscular tag-team action chops. Kane was betrayed on a Barcelona extradition mission, but details are less important than Soderbergh’s jazzy montage of breathtaking efficiency, cut to David Holmes’s lithe score: clipped, clean, cool.

Point-man Ken (Ewan McGregor) set Kane up, but conspiracies are backgrounded to flaunt Carano’s physicality, multi-smackdowns peaking as she decimates Michael Fassbender and high-class hotel furnishings.

Sure, limitations linger. Carano has charisma but lacks range, rendering human intrigue involving her dad (Bill Paxton) and Tatum as dead weight. Arguably, Soderbergh’s tendency to deliver two films in quick succession still maxes momentum at the cost of emotion.

But pared-back purity of purpose is Haywire’s point – and it’s played with tough panache. By the time Kane reaches Ken, you’ll be too busy keeping up with the punches to fret over subtleties.


Hard, fast, brutal: Soderbergh’s sucker-punch return to action knows what it’s about. Not subtle or substantial, but it gets to work with flab-free focus. Beat that, Bourne 4.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • StepsLux

      Jan 6th 2012, 12:44

      Sorry to be one of 'those', but I don't understand this: "After Kane escapes a takedown bid by fellow operative Aaron (Channing Tatum), her backstory gets info-dumped to hostage-totell- plot-to Scott (Michael Angarano)."

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    • BobbyTwoTimes

      Jan 20th 2012, 9:41


      Saw this last night - enjoyed it. Dragged a little in the middle and - as much as i like him - McGregor was badly miscast. But Tatum was good and the action was great. The scrap in the hotel room is a beauty. Little disappointed that TF decided to give so many spoilers away in the review though - there were plenty of things to review in this film other than key plot details.

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    • jaykays hat

      Jan 23rd 2012, 11:21

      Very disappointing film. This could have been so much better. Gina Carano's skills are wasted The fight scenes are good but there are not many of them. The film is dull and the script is awful. I lay the blame totally on Soderbergh. The fight at the end between Carano and McGregor was like a woman beating up a boy. Lets hope that Soderbergh hasn't ruined Carano's film career, she could be the next action woman.

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    • SussexUK

      Feb 5th 2012, 2:06

      3 out of 5 stars? Oh dear oh dear, think again please. This is one of the most dreadful films i've ever seen. The acting was terrible, the script ("you'd better run") was terrible. Please please avoid at all costs. Why do you critics not have the balls to tell the truth and scared of being the one person who says "hey.. this is pretty rubbish really" against all the other critics. Look at Rotten Tomatoes... 80% critics choice, 45% audience choice.. always go with the audience, they are usually right.

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    • ledbetter

      Feb 12th 2012, 17:55

      I went to watch this to use up what was left on a Christmas giftcard - what a waste. I thought the premise for the film sounded good and it might be a smart action film; how wrong I was. Completely miscast, sluggish action, terrible editing, a woeful score and a truly terrible performance from the lead 'actress'. I know she is an MMA fighter, but putting her at the centre of the film was a crazy decision - wooden doesn't even come close to describing her acting. The only reason I didn't leave early was because I was meeting people nearby when it finished. This is the most boring film I have seen in a long, long time. Avoid at all costs.

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    • Seedorf

      Apr 29th 2012, 18:30

      @ SussexUK. Always go with the audience? Haha. Look at Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3. Both given poor reviews by critics, both liked by audiences. They are dumb stupid films. A review is just an opinion. There are plenty of films that have had good reviews that aren't good, just as there are plenty of films, which are like by audiences, that are just ****.

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    • thedanieljson

      Jun 25th 2012, 0:33


      3 stars is right - I would disagree that Carano has 'charisma', but those are without a doubt the most cleanly filmed, breath-taking, squeam-inducing fight sequences I've ever seen. Also, Tatum was great, he really is a brilliant actor. But the woeful score and Carano's acting sucked any tension out of the proceedings (it was more effective when the music was entirely absent) making it a film that's easily forgotten bar some spectacular fist-fights.

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