I think that boxing is one of the dumbest sports in the world, and wrestling is about at the same IQ level but has the added detraction of being largely staged and injected with stupid story lines and unnecessary drama. That dislike has also spilled into martial arts, although there are exceptions (for example, I enjoy watching martial artists demonstrate their board/cement/baseball bat breaking abilities, and I often love karate and kung fu movies). Since I don’t follow MMA, I wasn’t familiar with Gina Carano, and I was pleasantly surprised to find her to be much more pleasantly proportioned than many female fighters, and yet no less capable.
In the film, Carano plays Mallory, who works for a private company that contracts to the U.S. government for all kinds of nasty top-secret jobs that no one else wants or is qualified to take. She had recently been called to Barcelona on a hostage rescue mission, and then no sooner had she returned home than she was out again to Dublin as a favor to British MI6. But things went all kinds of crazy on that job, and she found herself on the wrong side of the law and a target of the police and other government contractors. To clear her name, she’s got to stay alive, outwitting or outfighting those coming after her, while she tries to figure out who’s got it in for her.
I prefer going into movies knowing as little about them as possible, so Haywire had a lot of surprises in store for me. The overwhelming impression that I’d gotten from others was that it is wall-to-wall action, but I didn’t find that to be the case. There are lots of fight scenes, and most of them are pretty amazing, but there’s also quite a bit more downtime and a more intricate plot than I had expected. When Carano is fighting, it’s incredible. She also makes for impressive eye candy, and the scenes in which she’s both gorgeous and deadly are by themselves worth the price of admission. But acting is definitely not her strong suit, and her delivery of dialogue is much less convincing than her delivery of kicks and punches.
Fortunately, Carano isn’t required to carry the acting load on her own. Hers was the only name I’d heard in connection with the film, but I was quite surprised to learn of the extensive, well-credentialed supporting cast which included the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, and Channing Tatum. For the most part, they played their parts well, and when something didn’t work it was often more the fault of the weak screenplay (written by Lem Dobbs, who doesn’t have any other credited films in the last decade) than the actors inhabiting it.
I think that ultimately the film tries to be too smart for its own good. The best parts were the dumb action sequences, and the weakest were those that got bogged down with plot and dialogue. It’s a fun movie, but I think it would have been a lot better with a little less conversation and a little more action. Or maybe a lot more action.