PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 February, 2012, 12:00am


Starring: Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Category: IIB

Spy thriller Haywire has loads of style but little substance. It feels more like a B-movie of the past than a modern-day Hollywood action vehicle.

The film, directed by Steven Soderbergh, begins with the heroine Mallory (played by mixed-martial-arts fighter Gina Carano) beating up a man in a rural roadside cafe.

The victim is Aaron (Channing Tatum), her former colleague at a firm that does seedy work outsourced by the government. This wonderfully staged action set-piece sets the tone of the movie, which is about a vengeful woman that kicks the butt of bad men with ruthless efficiency. The opening scene is merely an appetiser as Soderbergh and his writer Lem Dobbs have come up with a lengthy list of male victims. Apart from Tatum, high-profile casualties include Michael Fassbender, a freelance superspy; Ewan McGregor (above with Carano), who plays the bad boss; and Antonio Banderas, who is another bad boss.

All these men have committed the cardinal sin of double-crossing our heroine, who, for the remaining 80 minutes, beats her way through the cast of men in multiple locations around the world including New York, Dublin, Barcelona, New Mexico and Washington.

The movie's plot is thin but Soderbergh's focus is on the chases, fights and shoot-outs. The minimalist action choreography is exciting to watch, especially when Soderbergh, utilising Carano's physical attributes, prefers realistic hand-to-hand combat over needless wirework and superfluous special effects. All the fight scenes are without music, and Soderbergh's tracking and close-up shots are so effective that you can almost feel the bone-crushing pain of the characters amid the thwacking and grunting.

The star of the movie is Carano, who is not much of an actress but is undeniably a great screen presence in her limited ways.

By Hollywood standards, Haywire has a relatively low body count. Yet it feels relentlessly violent, and it is also thoroughly entertaining in its eccentric machinations.

Haywire opens today