Having already used a porn star as a lead (Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience) Steven Soderbergh now casts another non-actor: mixed martial arts fighter, Gina Carano.
Mallory Kane (Carano) is a black ops specialist in a private agency used by governments, headed by the shady Kenneth (Ewan McGregor). Dark forces frame her for murder and set her up to go rogue. Just like they planned, she goes on the run. The international intrigue bounces her from Barcelona to Dublin to the US.
The cast is impressive; Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Mathieu Kassovitz and Michael Fassbender all put in brief but memorable turns. It’s wise casting since Carano is literally supported by such talent. She is not a brilliant actor but she’s certainly no worse than say, Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal. What, unfortunately, shines a light on her lack of skill is the superior filmmaking. The aforementioned action stars were never in films of any pedigree and their basic acting styles fitted neatly into the basic directing styles. But an Oscar winner, of course, helms Haywire. Actually, there are moments when Carano shows real sparks of finesse by doing very little. Think Clint or Arnie at their most minimal. But the bad outweigh the good - too often we witness a sore lack of presence and/or charisma in the leading lady and this, ultimately, is what lets the film down.
But hey, it’s not a think piece. It’s a film about a kickass female agent who systematically beats ten bales out of a long string of guys. Within this, her specialist area, Carano clearly has the stuff. As agile and deadly as a cobra she makes fast work of any opponents. Soderbergh shows the fights without editing too choppily (Christopher Nolan take note). This gives the carnage room to breath and we really get a chance to see her dazzling moves. I liked that little is made out of her being a woman. She’s not the best female agent she’s simply the best agent. At one point she remarks, “I don’t wear the dress” telling us her skill set involves her fists, feet and trigger finger.
It is a serviceable thriller but a cold film. Emotionally, Soderbergh employs a very distant approach, which also left me quite removed. Adding to this, long time collaborator David Holmes produced a very sterile score. But it’s perfectly watchable, and has an ending that left me wanting more.