dir Steven Soderbergh
scr Lem Dobbs
prd Gregory Jacobs
with Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano, Bill Paxton, Mathieu Kassovitz, Eddie J Fernandez, Anthony Brandon Wong, Tim Connolly
release US/UK 20.Jan.12
11/Ireland Relativity 1h33
Take that, boys! Carano

fassbender mcgregor tatum
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Haywire It's hardly surprising that Soderbergh takes such a bracing approach to the action thriller genre. What makes this film stand out from the crowd is its insistence on making sure that the action is grounded in human physicality, internalised drama and the laws of gravity.

Mallory (Carano) is a former military operative who's now a private contractor. After working with Aaron (Tatum) on a rather dodgy kidnap-rescue in Barcelona, her U.S. Government boss Kenneth (McGregor) sends her to Dublin on an assignment with British agent Paul (Fassbender). But things quickly get messy and, when she ends up on the run, she desperately grabs a passerby (Angarano) and tells him her tale while figuring out what to do. The only men she trusts are a political puppet-master (Douglas) and her ex-military guru dad (Paxton).

Soderbergh shoots this in a remarkably realistic style that combines sleek, jazzy intrigue with painfully authentic fights. Whenever people square off, David Holmes' slithery score disappears so we can hear (and feel) every blow to the head. No stuntmen are used, so Soderbergh can also let us see the characters thinking through their next move, lashing out randomly, struggling to regain control. Each action set-piece is a breathless encounter that not only reveals character detail but propels the plot forward.

Carano is hugely watchable, underplaying the dramatic scenes while adding key details in the action sequences. And her A-list parade of partners and assailants adds plenty of interest; each of these men is a riveting mix of light and dark shadings, so even the smaller roles carry a lot of weight. McGregor is especially good as the slippery guy behind most of the mayhem, Douglas brings some essential gravitas, and Banderas and Kassovitz (as back-room bosses) add dark menace with their shadowy characters.

And for an action film, there's a lot going on under the surface. Dobbs' smart, minimalist script explores the generational shift from clear-cut military motives to today's blurrier greed-based morality. Caught in the middle, Mallory is a woman with old-world values and new-world methods, not afraid to get her hands very dirty when she has to. But these actions affect her deeply, because she values her connections with those around her. Without people like Mallory, the world wouldn't stand a chance.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 15.Nov.11

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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall