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It’s pretty damn kick-ass, I tell ya. These low-budget Steven Soderbergh “experiments” tend to be worthwhile(well, 2002’s “Full Frontal” was kind of lousy, actually), and this is certainly no exception. In 2009’s “The Girlfriend Experience”, he cast porn star Sasha Grey in the lead role of a high-end Manhattan call girl. You’d never confuse her with a real actress, but that’s the point, of course. Her cadence and mannerisms are intentionally mined for the realism of someone who utilizes sex as a business. Now, for 2012’s “Haywire”, he gives us MMA fighter Gina Carano as a gorgeous, government assassin. And I’m sold. It’s lean, it’s spare and just confusing and convoluted enough to remind you to realize that the engine of this thing is the action. And it’s a low-budget corker where that is concerned. How is Mr. Soderbergh able to give us a beautifully-paced, exciting, 90 minute thriller for a fraction of the cost that big Hollywood would spend—and still manage to make it work? For one thing, he doesn’t let the inexperienced Ms. Carano stand out there all by herself to carry the darn thing. He surrounds her with terrific co-stars like Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas. They can all out-act her, but she undoubtedly can kick the butts of the entire bunch. And she proceeds to do just that to a sizable portion of the male cast. New York, Barcelona, Mexico—it bounces around Bond-style, as these genre pics tend to do. Ms. Carano’s Mallory Kane doesn’t climb the Burj Khalifa like Tom Cruise does in “M:I4”, but she kicks, runs, jumps and punches in high-style throughout. And what she may lack in thespian polish, she makes up for in fighting spirit. In fact, I think it’s borderline impossible to go wrong here. The film is taut, the star can really fight, she’s beautiful to look at, and her supporting men all give solid performances. This baby should be applauded for its cool and style. Plus, if you didn’t realize that it had such a high-brow pedigree in Academy Award-winning director Soderbergh, you just might think it’s some kind of minor masterpiece. If you imagine that to be lofty praise, I guess you’ll just have to see it for yourself. “Haywire” is a winner.      Grade:  A-


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