Director Steven Soderbergh's new action thriller Haywire stars real-life mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, a former Marine turned special ops contractor who goes rogue to find out why her employers framed her and tried to have her killed. One character in the film tells a would-be assassin, "You shouldn't think of her as being a woman. Now that would be a mistake." While it's unfortunately still a novelty for a woman to be the star of an action movie, and the producers of Haywire are most certainly banking on that, this piece of advice is at the heart of what makes Haywire such a fascinating, arguably post-feminist film.
That's because Mallory's peers and employers don't look at her as the best female operative in a male-dominated business -- but simply the best operative, period, rarely even mentioning her gender. And they certainly pull no punches with her, literally or figuratively, though it's their misfortune to learn that Mallory, while adept at taking punishment, is even better at delivering it. Watch the trailer for Haywire below.
Unlike many of the glamorous, rail-thin actresses who've starred in action films, it takes no suspension of disbelief to believe that Mallory is one of the most dangerous and capable contractors in the world, since Carano's day job has proven that she's one of the most dangerous women in the world. Considered the face of women's mixed martial arts, Carano is an expert at fighting styles including Muay Thai, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, Judo, wrestling, boxing, kickboxing, and Kung Fu, and defeated her opponent in her first sanctioned MMA bout in a mere 38 seconds.
Though Carano is a first-time actor, she naturally exudes the cool confidence of a person who knows how to think on her feet, size up situations and opponents quickly, and take decisive action -- traits perfect for her role as Mallory. This is most clearly on display in Haywire's action scenes (where Carano performed most of her own stunts) as we watch Mallory run down a bad guy through the streets of Barcelona, engage in brutal hand-to-hand combat, or evade a SWAT team across Dublin's rooftops. While the action scenes in most films are stylized, slickly edited, and often defy the laws of physics, the action in Haywire is gloriously low-tech and messy, playing out in longer shots with no music, allowing you to clearly see and hear every bone-crunching impact. At the same time, Mallory isn't just about flying feet and fists, as we also see her smarts and professionalism as she prepares for and carries out a rescue mission with other contractors, gathers intelligence, and lays the trap to find out why she was betrayed.
Haywire has an amazing supporting cast, including Ewan McGregor as Mallory's backstabbing employer and former flame, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas as American and Spanish officials who need Mallory's services, Channing Tatum and Michael Fassbender as fellow contractors turned adversaries, Bill Paxton as Mallory's proud and supportive father, and Michael Angarano as a guy unlucky enough to have a car Mallory needs to make a getaway.
With Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 heist series over, the director is clearly looking for another genre franchise to do for fun between his more challenging and experimental pieces. Haywire fits that description, leaves itself open to sequels, and definitely left me wanting to see more of Mallory's adventures in the shadowy world of special ops guns for hire. So if Haywire does well at the box office, we'll not only get more of possibly the most badass female action hero ever, but also something rare in the movie world -- a female-led action franchise. Not that any of that should matter.