CONTAINS SPOILERS. OUCH.
It's an odd thing. When martial artists start out in movies they usually do so at the bottom end of the industry - cheap thick-ear action movies. See the early works of Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck "Chuckles" Norris. Yet somehow Gina Camaro has come almost literally out of nowhere to not just land a starring role alongside Michael Fassbender, Bill Paxton, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum and Ewan McGregor, but in a film directed by one of the top Hollywood A-list name directors of our time, Steven Soderbergh. How on Earth did she luck out with that? How on Earth did they get Soderbergh - director of a two-part biopic of Che Guevara and the three Ocean's movies - to direct what is basically a direct-to-video action B-thriller? Alternatively, what was it about Haywire that so interested him? It's rather like discovering that Lemon Popsicle was made by Stanley Kubrick.
Real-life Mixed Martial Arts champion Carano stars as a freelance agent doing dirty work for the US Government: following a rescue operation in Barcelona, she's given a new assignment in Dublin, where she's double-crossed, unwisely, by her paymasters, and is forced to go on the run, clear her name and deal with the shady cabal of villains. That really is pretty much all there is to it: it's a standard B-movie action thriller that 20 years ago would have been a Cynthia Rothrock movie, but is now backed by a proper director and a surprisingly heavyweight cast - a cast that also includes Antonio Banderas, who for some reason is wearing a Saddam Hussein beard and for much of the time is unrecognisable.
Yet Haywire (which is a pretty meaningless title) is really far better than the usual thud-crunch-wallop littering the DVD rental shelves. It's got a wonderful 70s look to it, with long takes rather than rapid-fire hyperediting, impressively choreographed and inventive fight scenes which have been shot so you can actually see what's happening and which genuinely look painful, and an enjoyable funk score from David Holmes, one of Soderbergh's regular composers. In truth it isn't a great film, and Carano probably isn't going on the Academy's radar any time soon (although she does the job perfectly well), but it's fun to watch and an interesting mix of director and genre. Once more I call upon Woody Allen to make the next Resident Evil movie.