Mallory Kane may not know why everything in her private security job has gone, well, haywire. But she sure can take a punch.
Marine-turned-global-security-contractor Mallory Kane is a superstar among her peers. Sure, everyone in her game is a seasoned fighter who can get in and out of just about any hostage situation or bad-guy takedown they're assigned. But Mallory still stands out.
This raven-haired beauty always plays things smart. She always fits, always covers every angle and always ties up every loose end. That's why the government and special services types generally ask for her when they have a big mess to clean up. It's also why Mallory's current boss/ex-boyfriend Kenneth isn't happy about her entertaining thoughts of leaving his company. If she goes, why, half his client list might go with her.
For the moment, though, Mallory just keeps doing her job. And when odd things start popping up on one particular mission, she, as always, goes above and beyond her assignment to root through them. In the process she spots more than a few things that shouldn't be there: clandestine meetings, purposeful misdirection, a dead man clutching incriminating evidence. It almost looks like she's being set up. But for what? And by whom?
Then a supposedly friendly agent tries to kill her. So it's come to that. If they can't successfully set her up, they'll just take her out. Or at least they'll try. Because anybody who's worked with Mallory ought to know one thing: She won't go easy.
None of Mallory's unfolding situation is her fault. If anything, she does her job too well. But once she finds herself in the midst of the heated action, she does everything she can to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. So it's not just her own life she's interested in saving.
She has a very close relationship with her father. And in the heat of her troubles, he's willing to leave his career and life behind to run away and keep her protected in some secluded hideaway. And there's one other man in Mallory's life who isn't trying to kill or severely injure her. While she's fighting off a foe, Scott, a young man in a diner, comes to her defense. He's easily tossed aside by Mallory's attacker, but Mallory later gets him to drive her to safety.
We see a woman wearing a skimpy bikini. Mallory and a male MI6 agent step out of the bathroom after taking showers (in two separate scenes) each wrapped only in a towel. Mallory wears a T-shirt and panties for a bit.
Mallory walks up to a fellow security agent named Aaron and shows him her interest by quickly flipping open his belt buckle and pulling him to her. They kiss passionately. While undercover, Mallory kisses the MI6 agent.
The movie opens in a small diner set in a wintery rural area. We watch as Mallory sits across from a seemingly hung-over friend, quietly discussing topics we don't understand. Then, out of the blue, the guy throws a scalding cup of coffee and a raw bare-knuckle fist into Mallory's face. The scene then degrades into a body-slamming, head-smashing, bullet-flying, groin-thumping, bone-breaking brutish battle between this hard-fighting girl and her male attacker.
And that sets the stage and level of violence for the rest of the film.
Mallory engages in a half-dozen or more aggressive hand-to-hand fights with men. They viciously punch her upper body and face, sometimes pinning her to the ground and slamming blows into her prone form. One launches a surprise attack, punching her viciously in the back of the neck. Others throw her across small spaces, pick her up off the ground and slam her into walls and through splintering glass panes. She falls off the side of a building and lands flat on her back. She's left limping, bruised and cut on numerous occasions—welts raised on her face and hands.
For her part, Mallory doesn't hold back any blows or bullets either. As she's being, literally, manhandled, for instance, she slams her hands, elbows, knees and feet into any fleshy exposed areas close enough for contact—from groin to neck to kidney to solar plexus. After a protracted battle, she wraps her pantyhose-clad legs around an attacker's neck and pulls him into her groin where she chokes him till he falls unconscious. She then rolls on top of him, places a pillow over his face and shoots him point-blank in the forehead.
Several scenes feature shoot-outs, and in one, four police officers are killed. Other bloody visuals include a corpse with a bullet hole in the head. An IED detonation leaves another man dead, his blood and brains splattered across the hood and window of a car. A guy falls, breaks his leg and gets his bloodied limb wedged between two rocks.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and about 10 s-words. Two or three uses of "h‑‑‑." God's name is wrongly interjected a handful of times. Jesus' name is harshly abused at least seven times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
In private settings and in a restaurant we see Mallory, Aaron, Kenneth and the MI6 guy drink beer, wine, champagne and Scotch. Aaron, at one point, complains of being hung over. A Barcelonan official smokes a cigar.
Steven Soderbergh's latest, a globe-trotting thriller, illustrates just how seasoned a director he's become. The movie's flashback scenes may seem quick and confusing at first, as names, places and Hollywood stars quickly come and go, but it's all designed to keep us securely strapped in through the twists and turns till we recognize the real focus: pure adrenalized action.
Haywire is as smooth and quick as the best moves of an expert martial artist. That sense carries over into its percussion-riffed jazzy score and, of course, its central character, Mallory Kane. Played by Gina Carano—a mixed martial arts fighter Soderbergh spotted in a televised cage match—Mallory is a rare cross-over combination, an action film leading lady who looks like she can actually take and throw a punch without breaking a nail … or a wrist.
Surprisingly, she packs as much charisma in her lines as she does kinetic energy in her fights. The result will easily maintain a headlock grip on the audience's sympathy and attention throughout the taut 93-minute running time.
In fact, everything's so quickly moving and balanced here that you can almost get through the whole experience before realizing that the film's showcased showdowns are likely also its most prominent problem. Beyond the foul and profane language and spattering of blood, there's something incredibly disquieting about a large man beating a woman with raw brutal force. That's true even if the woman being choked, burned, head-thumped, back-handed and bloodied is a tough-as-nails gal who can give as good as she gets.
Deep in the film, Mallory's employer Kenneth turns to a hired agent who admits that he's never killed a woman before. Kenneth warns him, "You shouldn't think of her as being a woman. No, that would be a mistake." Haywire wants us all to leave that distinction behind as well.