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Haywire (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 93 minutes.

OK for Children.

Steven Soderbergh ably directs mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano in this ingeniously convoluted action thriller, in which everyone is out to kill Gina, that keeps you on the edge of your seat even though you don't have a clue about what's going on until the end. Influenced by Soderbergh's affection for one of his favorite films, James Bond's "From Russia With Love," it is helped by a terrific cast including Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender,  Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, and Michael Douglas.

The interesting script was written by Lem Dobbs, who, although uncredited, rewrote the script for Romancing the Stone (1984), a film that was good enough to inspire a sequel, 1987's Jewel of the Nile. Unfortunately, Dobbs apparently had nothing to do with the disappointing sequel. This is his first produced screenplay in ten years since The Score (2001).

Bravo to Soderbergh for casting the relatively inexperienced Carano to star in this movie instead of casting someone like Reese Witherspoon, who can act but who would have to be doubled for all the fighting and stunts. Carano, while attractive, is no Elizabeth Banks or Katherine Heigl when it comes to looks. But what she does is look like a real person (Banks and Heigl are so beautiful it's hard to believe that they exist in real life; could you meet someone who looks like them in a singles bar?).

So if one were watching Witherspoon or Banks or Heigl in this role, it would stretch credulity to the max. But when Carano starts her fighting and stunts, she looks like she could really do whatever it is her character is called upon to do, and that adds enormous verisimilitude to the story, which often strains credulity.

Basically, she's hired by McGregor to go to Barcelona to do a job. Everything turns out badly and she's left all alone to her own resources to survive, to figure out what happened and why, and to exact revenge.

Soderbergh claims he used no CGI or special effects in this film, and it looks like it. While some of the fights are a little too violent to believe that they could go on for the periods that they do, they are still relatively realistic. And Carano's face isn't hidden, a sure sign that a double has been used.

He also has her doing things that appear to be not altogether kosher, vis--vis her partners. But Soderbergh added these elements because he feels like one of the reasons Hitchcock's films were so successful with audience was because "at their core they are all about guilt."

It's an action film with a female protagonist played by an actress with the cred that she could actually accomplish what she's shown doing, and it's a lot of fun. Sure, there are more plot holes than you can shake a stick at, but who cares? You know what you're getting when you pay your money.

 

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