2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund
Perhaps you've heard of Gina Carano. A former American Gladiator and current YouTube sensation, the raven-haired 29-year-old is one of the most Googled people on the planet, and has been dubbed "the face of women's mixed martial arts." She's also the comely ass-kicker at the center of Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, a hell-hath-no-fury spy jaunt conceived by its director as Carano's breakout vehicle (think Ong Bak with boobs). Ever the experimental genre jumper, Soderbergh finally gets his Luc Besson fanboy on, making his first-time leading lady a Nikita thirsty for vengeance in a man's world. He certainly breaks some sort of new ground in the way his fights are presented. Though Carano's freelance operative Mallory Kane tends to walk away the victor, it's hard to recall the last time a female character was so fiercely and frequently beaten up by men, punched and kicked and thrown and smashed without a speck of sugarcoating.