Mallory Kane is a contract killer. To be more accurate, she’s a government contractor, sent all over the globe to extract sensitive personnel, or maybe to whack a few people. She’s a crack shot, a powerful hand-to-hand fighter, and sexy to boot.
Why the hell would anyone want to backstab her then?
Haywire is an action-with-a-deadline flick that tells the story of Mallory Kane (MMA fighter Gina Carano), as she is jumped, betrayed, beaten and betrayed; just not in that order. Kane starts the film in a remote location in upstate New York, where she is greeted by former partner and contract killer, Aaron (Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe, Magic Mike)). It doesn’t take long for director Steven Soderburgh (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic) to put Carano’s Muay Thai and MMA skills on display.
Kane escapes the encounter and flees the scene, opening the story up to a series of flashbacks that introduce all the key players, and the elements that led up to this moment. Viewers are treated to the mission that started it all, back in Barcelona, where Kane and Aaron met. The mission was an extraction – they were to save a reporter. The crew succeeds in the extraction, even though Kane goes off script and chases down a would-be assassin.
The success of that mission leads to a new assignment in Dublin. Kane is hesitant, but her handler, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor (Star Wars episodes 1-3)) explains that this is her in with the British Intelligence Agency, MI 6. Kenneth’s strings are all pulled by even higher players, Alex (Wall Street’s Michael Douglas) and Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas (Once Upon a Time in Mexico)). Kane is met in Dublin by her partner on the case, Paul (Michael Fassbender (X-Men:First Class). The Dublin mission changes the film from flashback to real-time, beginning the chess match of spy games that ultimately lead Kane face-to-face with the one who set her up.
Haywire intrigued me when I saw the trailers in the theater. The supporting cast is chock full of A-list veterans. The film hinges, however, on viewers’ ability to buy fighter-turned-actress Carano in the lead role. I actually enjoyed her performance. The hand-to-hand combat scenes were credible, featuring choke holds and round house kicks not seen in many modern fight scenes. Carano isn’t the typical A-list actress. Her voice was altered in post-production to sound tougher, and she isn’t 100 pounds. Haywire doesn’t feature slow-mo bikini shots or needless shower scenes.
Unfortunately, some of the chase scenes seem to drag out a bit, and the middle of the film is basically Carano running around and doing a bit of base jumping without any real tension. The original screenplay by Lem Dobbs has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, without too many highs and lows. Fassbender, McGregor, Douglas and Banderas are as good as the material allows. All in all, Haywire is a good popcorn movie with a strong female lead. It simply lacks the tension to make viewers believe that Kane might actually come up short of her revenge mission.