Steven Soderbergh doesn't always make critically acclaimed movies; yet, he remains a critical darling. I think it's because he takes chances with his films. He's willing to try his hand at new genres and to push at the boundaries of those genres.
Haywire, at its core, is a straightforward revenge-driven action thriller. Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) did a job in Barcelona. Shortly after, she finds herself betrayed by her agency and pursued by assassins. But the movie begins after that, with Mallory's first contact post-betrayal with former coworker Aaron (Channing Tatum). The Barcelona and Dublin jobs fold out in flashbacks.
There are moments when Haywire shines. The script is lean, allowing the images to carry the story. Most of the action unfolds wordlessly to a jazzy electronic score by David Holmes. At Haywire's release, critics made a big to do over a female action star who looked like she could actually carry out the action. Now, Carano did her time as an MMA fighter. She's got muscle, and it shows, especially in the rare scene where her bare arms make an appearance. But she's not particularly Amazonian. Her muscle is more toned than bulky. But Carano carries the physicality of the movie wonderfully. She can do her own stunts and the choreography is quite wonderful.
Carano's acting is not up to par with her stuntwork. She does good at playing cold, which is necessary for most of the film, but she's less convincing when having a touching moment with her father. The role of Mallory suits Carano well, and she might certainly have a future as an action star. Most of the acting is carried off by the very able supporting cast, which includes Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas. I adore Ewan McGregor, but his Kenneth didn't always work for me. (It may be because I associate blond Ewan McGregor with I Love You, Philip Morris and thus think blond Ewan McGregor is the sweetest thing ever.)
As much as I loved the flashbacks, the framing was somewhat awkward. Mallory explains her story to a preternaturally calm kid. I'm not blaming the actor. It was a strange part, and it's for the best that the end of Haywire forgets that he ever existed.
If you like action movies or any of the actors involved, I'd buy or rent Haywire. It delivers heavily on stylish, brutal, and realistic action. The story isn't ridiculously stupid and the long interlude with Mallory and Paul (Fassbender) is delightfully tense. But don't go in expecting more than a fun movie. Being slightly more clever than the average thriller does not a masterpiece make.