"Haywire"

What do you get if an Oscar-winning director of dramas and comedies and his experienced team of film-makers makes a spy action movie with a supporting cast of six male movie stars and a lead who is a relatively unknown female cage-fighting champion? You get "Haywire"; directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Lem Dobbs; co-starring Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum (?), Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas; and starring Gina Carrano.

This movie has one of the smartest scripts ever in an action movie. Lem Dobbs really knows how to write competent characters who never say anything stupid or pointlessly 'clever', and a story that has the kind of constant gripping tension that might lead to you watching the first three reels without realizing the movie is more than half over. Steven Soderbergh knows how to bring all those things to the screen, and keep this complex, tense, and sometimes confusing story from overwhelming the viewer. Fans of this filmmaking team may find some things familiar here and there in the story, but overall it's original and never takes the easy way out for any of the characters. Sharon points out that even though the female lead is ruthless and brutal up against a series of men, nobody ever calls her any gender-based epithets. In fact, the language is remarkably clean, despite the fact that the first and last word in the movie is an expletive..

That's not to say this movie is overly intellectual. The same grace Soderbergh brought to caper movies with the "Ocean's" series is here, possibly partially due to a similar soundtrack. Soderbergh had wanted to make an action movie in the spy genre when he happened to ctach a televised Multiple Martial Arts (MMA) cage fight on TV, and he was hooked by the idea of a female lead for a change; one who can really hold her own with speed and strength, pick up a gun when the shooting starts, but run away when running is the smartest thing to do. Carrano does a great job here, playing this subtle character believably, and really kicking butt. IMDb notes they had to digitally deepen her voice for the film, which she should maybe look into fixing with some voice lessons if she wants to continue in movies, but the stunt and action coordinators in the special features laud her exceptional dedication and professionalism.

Anyway, we really enjoyed this movie. When you're in the mood for an action movie, with a ton of violence but a smart story, I recommend "Haywire".

2012.06.14 at 12:00am EDT