A typically uneven effort from Steven Soderbergh, Haywire follows covert operative Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) as she embarks on a campaign of revenge after a mission goes dangerously awry – with the film subsequently detailing Mallory’s efforts at tracking down (and punishing) the various men responsible for her downfall. There’s little doubt that Soderbergh, working from a script by Lem Dobbs, does a superb job of immediately roping the viewer into the proceedings, as Haywire opens with an engrossing fight sequence that effectively sets a tone of minimalist brutality and establishes Carano’s character as an absolutely compelling protagonist. From there, however, Soderbergh offers up a dull and surprisingly confusing series of flashbacks that drain the movie of its energy – with the less-than-captivating vibe exacerbated by the filmmaker’s reliance on distractingly ostentatious elements (including David Holmes’ jarring score and Soderbergh’s expectedly off-kilter visuals). The incongruously convoluted atmosphere is, admittedly, broken up by the sporadic (and welcome) inclusion of absorbing fight scenes, and it’s not until Mallory embarks on her aforementioned campaign of revenge that Haywire becomes the briskly-paced and thrilling actioner that one might’ve anticipated. (There is, in particular, an absolutely electrifying duel between Mallory and Michael Fassbender’s Paul that in itself justifies the film’s entire existence.) By the time the note-perfect conclusion rolls around, Haywire has effectively managed to overcome its rocky opening 45 minutes to establish itself as a solid actioner that benefits substantially from Carano’s star-making central performance.

*** out of ****

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