Haywire's plot is boilerplate triple-cross, cloak-and-dagger stuff — but the action choreography by director Steven Soderbergh and former MMA fighter Gina Carano puts the impact back into screen violence. After a setup, ex-Marine Mallory Kane (Carano) goes rogue from her job as hired muscle for a private government subcontractor, looking for answers from her boss and former lover, Kenneth, played by Ewan McGregor. The rest of his network is played by famous faces — Antonio Banderas, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender — but Haywire is very much a vehicle for Carano, appearing in her first film.
The casting is more than a stunt, for Haywire makes full use of her particular physical capabilities in combats of rib-cracking resonance. Carano is also photogenic; this is important because Haywire is, after a fashion, a slapstick-violent, mercenary sex comedy, with Mallory getting romantically involved with each of her major combatants in turn.
The highlight combat-duet is a parody of a swank first date in which the aggressive male gets more than he bargained for in the bedroom, concluding in a smothering thigh lock that leaves its victim with a priceless sated and insensate expression before his black-widow goodnight kiss. This is a real war-of-the-sexes tournament, briskly paced with a tickling sense of dark humor. —Nick Pinkerton (Citywide)