Haphazard and frenetic by name, Haywire is a coolly assured and breathlessly choreographed action thriller that has been tailored to the dazzling athletic prowess of its leading lady.
Harking from a mixed martial arts background, Gina Carano is 5ft 8in of pure muscle and dynamism, who scythes through stunt sequences with breathtaking speed and power.
She could easily bruise the egos of James Bond and Jason Bourne, wrapping her legs around one assailant in Steven Soderbergh’s film and crushing his neck between her thighs as she deflects his flailing punches.
In this battle of the sexes, the female is far more deadly than dozens of males.
When one hit man discovers she is his next mark, he calmly responds that he has never killed a woman before.
“You should never think of her as being a woman - that’s a mistake,” warns the client.
Freelance gun-for-hire Mallory Kane (Carano) is one of the best in the business, keeping a cool head when the rest of her team panic during a bungled operation in Barcelona to rescue a kidnapped Chinese journalist (Anthony Brandon Wong).
Her handler, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), accepts a job from the enigmatic Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas) and dispatches Mallory to Dublin, where she must pose as the wife of fellow assassin Paul (Michael Fassbender) and neutralise a high-profile asset.
“I’m eye candy,” she smiles sweetly.
However, the mission is fatally compromised and Mallory discovers that her friends have betrayed her, marking her for death.
She questions who to trust, even her former lover and accomplice, Aaron (Channing Tatum).
Mallory’s father, military man John Kane (Bill Paxton), inspires her to exact a brutal and bloody revenge but there are powerful men working against his daughter including the well-connected Coblenz (Michael Douglas).
Haywire opens with a bang in a diner in upstate New York, where Mallory and Aaron engage in a furious brawl before she escapes in a car belonging to innocent bystander Scott (Michael Angarano) and relates her violent past in flashback.
Director Soderbergh, who put an artful gloss on the disaster movie with yesteryear’s Contagion, is assured behind the camera, editing together each bone-crunching skirmish with brio.
For adrenaline junkies, the film delivers.
However, all of the thrills come at the expense of plot, characterisation and emotion.
Lem Dobbs’s knowing script provides a flimsy narrative on which to hang each high-octane sequence and for all her physical flair, Carano doesn’t demonstrate much in the way of performance skills.
The film flits from New York to Washington DC, Barcelona, San Diego, Dublin and New Mexico, exploding into life every time Carano leaps across rooftops or chases after a henchman through busy traffic.
She is the V8 engine thundering beneath the bonnet of a second-hand hatchback.
By Damon Smith
:: SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: January 20, 92 mins