Thoughts: Two things I noted in Haywire: the first is that Gina Carano is the only female in the flick, and the second is that everything that occurs within is born purely from underestimation of the woman. These are only a couple of the myriad differences Soderbergh works into what would be a typical new-millennium spy actioner, and both the film and the audience benefit from it.
Gina Carano, MMA star, makes her film debut as protagonist super-spy Mallory Kane in Haywire. In typical Soderbergh style, the film jumps from place to place and from time to time, but thankfully the time is broken only into two forward-running timelines, and the places are clearly spelled out and labelled correctly in conversations. We open with a blistering, slightly enigmatic fight sequence involving hot coffee and Channing Tatum, and as Mallory goes on the run with a "hostage" the majority of her employment and reasons leading up to her fugitive status are made clear. I won't say much else, except that it involves clandestine dealings, the almighty dollar, and a Glengarry Glen Ross type roster of male talent.
Gina Carano is, simply put, quite amazing. Of course her physicality is without question; a lifetime of training leaves no doubt that she would bring a professional class to the vast number of action sequences. No, she seems to have a good grasp of each scene, is stunningly beautiful, and has a smile that seems to indicate that she knows something we don't. I was quite enamoured with her and her performance, and found myself sinking into her world of danger and intrigue. Soderbergh frames the film as a kind of retro spy flick (as if the music wasn't a good enough indicator), but he lends his unique eye to every scene, capturing angles and precise moments with a flair that seems to be missing from most other vanilla action flicks these days. Take the numerous fisticuff moments: filmed without music, emphasis on the connects, and with a down-and-dirty, realistic approach to pain and progress. Or the very precise construction of the mid-film foot chase through Dublin. It comes together with a very fluid feel, and it gives the film that extra edge in regards to the competition.
Of course, when you break it down, and get past the fantastic casting (Ewan Macgregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Channing Tatum), brutal action, and wonderful lensing, it really is just another cookie-cutter plot, with really not much meat. There's about 0 to I'd say 20% characterization across the board, and a seemingly complex plot that reveals itself as not that hard to understand in retrospect, so if you're looking for a film that's spy V spy in a cerebral sense, I can't really recommend it. But for me personally, I loved it, and I'd watch it again.
...Oh and the film looks and sounds fantastic on blu-ray, plus there's a couple of short but really interesting special features about the film and it's production. Miss Carano seems like a really nice, driven person, and it looks like they had a lot of fun on set (most of the guys did all their stunts and fights like Carano did, check the wince-inducing throwdown between her and Michael Fassbender!). Enjoy.