Movie Review

REVIEW: 'Haywire' could turn MMA star Gina Carano into a movie star

January is often a terrible month for movies. Most releases are studio after-thoughts or films one step above straight to video releases. But drop Steven Soderbergh into the mix and things get interesting. 

The director of the “Ocean’s 11” movies has few cinematic boundaries. He is equally comfortable directing a blockbuster franchise with Clooney and Pitt as he is a miniscule film starring regular small-town folks (“Bubble”). Now give Soderbergh a typical B-level action/martial arts/kick-ass chase movie and he turns it into a smart, sophisticated A-level action/martial arts/kick-ass chase movie.

“Haywire” has a mid-1970s action vibe. But instead of Gene Hackman or Robert Shaw kicking butt we have the sexy Gina Carano, a superstar in the mixed martial arts realm and contestant on NBC’s “American Gladiators.” Carano is terrific as spy/assassin Mallory Kane, who demolishes dozens of baddies in the blink of an eye, and looks incredible doing it.

Carano, given minimal amounts of dialogue and very short sentences, has a raw, primal and believable energy. Carano can sparkle in an elegant evening gown, and also knock your head off with her foot. Her MMA techniques are on display full force, and the fight scenes are masterfully choreographed. “Haywire” could make a movie star of Carano. (Hopefully she’ll choose her projects wisely and not become the queen of straight-to-DVD garbage.)

Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs, writer of Soderbergh’s “The Limey” and the brilliant “Kafka,” present us with a basic mystery. Mallory must evade her employers who want to assassinate her while trying to understand why they want her dead. Little information is given and Soderbergh presents everything at face value. “Haywire” is more a gut-wrenching sensory experience  than it is intellectually stimulating. But that’s not to say it isn’t smart.

What a cast “Haywire” sports, too. Carano pairs up against Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum and the too cool for school Michael Fassbender. The big names in “Haywire” provide great acting plus the shock of seeing big stars get down and dirty with multiple beat-downs.

Soderbergh rocks this genre and Carano gives any male action star a run for his money. “Haywire” is guaranteed to be the most fun you’ll have at the movies this month.