Haywire (2011)

Here Paul (Michael Fassbender) is under Mallory (Gina Carano) and is either about to have a very good time or a very bad one.

An action film starring Gina Carano. In real life Carano is charming and has genuine action pedigree. She is a former Muay Thai kick boxer and was undefeated as a cage fighter until she ran up against half woman, half steroid machine Cris Cyborg and was left battered and semi-conscious on the canvas. You can’t get much more hardcore action hero credentials than that. The Seagals and Stallones of this world have only flirted with real fights and real pain. So she’s amazing here, right? Er… I’ll get to that.

Although the movie tries to be clever with it’s structure (something which doesn’t really work and makes it seem a bit of a mess) this is essentially a revenge story. Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is working as a contract killer but is betrayed by her employer Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). There is a botched attempt to eliminate her and then the rest of the film is her getting revenge by killing everyone who crossed her.

In the roughness of the fighting world Carano stood out for her good looks and big chest but in the movie world – to be brutally honest – she doesn’t stand out at all. In Hollywood if you need a female action hero then Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson or Anne Hathaway can step into the role. You don’t need to be a real fighter in a world of illusion. Carano has a raw brutality and power that comes from her fighting background but she lacks the kind of grace or balletic poise that made someone like Bruce Lee so watchable. The jury is also still out on whether realistic grappling moves work well in a movie environment. I’m not so sure personally.

Wisely though the role of Mallory Kane has been written to take advantage of Carano’s tough character. Mallory is a tomboy-ish rough and ready character who is very good at what she does and who isn’t particularly feminine. At times this personality works well, making you feel that you could be watching a new kind of female action hero and film. Here you go with it, that is until you realise the film lacks depth and that the story is essentially the same as every other revenge film. So what you end up with is a humourless hour or so of watching an efficient but charmless female action hero despatch enemy after enemy. Carano’s acting while not terrible – especially when you consider acting wasn’t her first career choice – isn’t exactly first rate either. Also *whisper this* – her voice has been altered in post-production.

The supporting cast is surprisingly high profile : Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor (a little miscast here as arch-villan), Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton and Antonio Banderas. However you suspect this is more to do with the reputation of the director (Steven Soderbergh) than either the quality of the script or screenplay.

An average action film with an average lead actor and a good lesson in why action heroes should probably not be real fighters. 5/10

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