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Thursday, Feb. 2, 2012 12:50 am

Carano an action star to be reckoned with in Haywire

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Upon seeing mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano dispatch one of her opponents during a short-lived title match, director Stephen Soderbergh wondered why no one had turned her into an action star. He solved that problem by contacting his old screenwriting partner, Len Dobbs, who delivered to him a script entitled Haywire. Quickly pulling together a $25 million budget and a group of A-list actors for his heroine to dispatch, Soderbergh made what is one of the slickest spy movies in recent memory.

Carano is Mallory Kane, an operative for Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), an independent contractor and her former lover, who finds herself on the wrong end of a massive pounding from one of her former partners (Channing Tatum) in the film’s opening scene. That she turns the tables and delivers a vicious beat down on him is no surprise, as she proves adept at kicking, punching, twisting and gouging with the best of them. After kidnapping a wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time diner, she and her captive hurtle down the road in his car, where Kane recounts to him – and us – just why she’s on the run.

The plot is of little consequence – it involves double-crosses, the freeing of a dissident journalist and a government official (Michael Douglas) who wants to recruit Kane. The plot is nothing more than an excuse to highlight Carano’s butt kicking skills, which are considerable. It’s great to see an action film done right, as Soderbergh uses long takes to capture his star’s remarkable skills, eschewing a quick editing scheme which does nothing but muddle so many modern action movies. No, he keeps the camera trained on Carano and she doesn’t disappoint. While her fighting skills are a wonder to behold and great fun to watch, her personality shines through as well. She’s a natural on screen, bringing a smoldering intensity tempered by a bit of mischievousness that shows she has the makings of a star.

Comparisons to Jackie Chan wouldn’t be far off the mark and while Dobbs and Soderbergh obviously constructed the film to limit the number of times Carano had to deliver dialogue, she’s more than up to that task as well. Haywire will never be mistaken for a genre classic, but it’s a tight little thriller that wisely grounds its action in reality, making it more immediate and exciting. Here’s hoping it also serves as the starting point for a long and fruitful film career for Carano.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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