Haywire's plot is boilerplate triple-cross, cloak-and-dagger stuff—but the action choreography by director Steven Soderbergh and MMA fighter Gina Carano puts the impact back into screen violence. After a setup, ex-Marine Mallory Kane (Carano) goes rogue from her job as hired muscle for a private government subcontractor, looking for answers from her boss and former lover, Kenneth, played by Ewan McGregor. The rest of his network is played by famous faces—Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender—but Haywire is very much a vehicle for Carano, appearing in her first film. The casting is more than a stunt, for Haywire makes full use of her particular physical capabilities in combats of rib-cracking resonance. Carano is also photogenic; this is important because Haywire is, after a fashion, a slapstick-violent, mercenary sex comedy, with Mallory getting romantically involved with each of her major combatants in turn. The highlight combat-duet is a parody of a swank first date in which the aggressive male gets more than he bargained for in the bedroom, concluding in a smothering thigh lock that leaves its victim with a priceless sated and insensate expression before his black-widow goodnight kiss. This is a real war-of-the-sexes tournament, briskly paced with a tickling sense of dark humor.
McGregor pauses amid the gunfire.
Opens at Pacific Place and other theaters, Fri., Jan. 20. Rated R. 105 minutes.