‘Haywire’ (2011) review: Righting wrongs (one haymaker at a time)

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‘Haywire’ a fast-paced blend of genres

“Haywire” revels in the ideology that not much matters when you watch an action movie. And honesty, can you blame it? When all is said and done — after all the fighting and running and traveling and killing — what do you remember? It sure isn’t the tight editing or curiously absent soundtrack.

In the end, though, “Haywire’s” flaw also is its greatest strength: Perfectly choreographed, brilliantly edited and lightning-fast in its delivery, “Haywire” is a striking blend between a pulpy film noir classic and a cheap B-movie. And for the most part, this kinetic experiment works.

Directed by the ever-erratic Steven Soderberg (“Contagion”), “Haywire” centers around Mallory (“American Gladiators” cast member and mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano in her acting debut), a black-ops pro who epitomizes the dangers inherent in being a covert super-butt-kicking machine. It doesn’t help the situation that she continues to mix work with pleasure, either. (And her pleasure seems to always involve some violence.)

Mallory, a stoic character of few words and deadly hand-to-hand combat skill, is the victim of a devious double-cross, which is explained to a stranger, Scott (Michael Angarano), through numerous flashbacks (most of which are crucial to the second half of the film). She drives his car to a meeting of which we and Scott are clueless, so she fills us in on the details, expecting us to keep with the slew of names and locations (including Aaron, Paul, Kenneth and Barcelona).

You see, Mallory works for Kenneth (Ewan McGregor, “Star Wars”), who runs a firm that does contract work of the unmentionable variety for the government, which is given a face here by Michael Douglas. While in Barcelona, completing a job for Kenneth, she teams up with Aaron (Channing Tatum, “G.I. Joe”). However, while in the beautiful Spanish city, things go a bit … haywire. The following events spill out into Dublin, America and Mexico, and involve even more men (as there are no other women in “Haywire”) including her father (Bill Paxton, “Twister”) and other government agents (Antonio Banderas and Michael Fassbender).

While having Mallory travel the world in order to exact revenge, Soderbergh does away with the filmmaking style currently in vogue; instead, he opts for tight, restricting shots, shots that show us as much as Mallory is seeing. Whether it’s at a showdown at her father’s stunning house in New Mexico or during a suspenseful chase down the streets of one of Ireland’s most famous cities, Soderbergh leaves us wondering what will happen next. It’s closer to “Drive” than it is “The Bourne Supremacy.”

On that note, Soderbergh’s latest film possesses the same pulpy film found in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive,” thanks in large part to the guarded acting (if you can call it that) of Carano. Her emotions are as elusive as Driver’s, and it casts a shadow over her true feelings, leaving you wondering just how far she will go.

But the journey revolves less around her feelings, and more around the insanely frenetic mission she carries out. Which she does with brutal efficiently. And one killer haymaker.

Four butt-kicking stars out of five, and a critic’s pick.

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Gina Carano is shown in a scene from "Haywire." (Photo credit: Relativity Media)

Gina Carano is shown in a scene from “Haywire.” (Photo credit: Relativity Media)

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