Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a former marine who now is a private
contractor. She's hired to help with a rescue mission in Barcelona. 10
days later, she's being chased, accused of several counts of murder and
having perceived connections to terrorism.
Directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh, this movie is all style over substance. From the rescue mission to Mallory being chased as a fugitive, the audience will be pulled along with the wonder of why. Why is she rescuing this Asian hostage? Why is she being chased? And, the answers to both is that it doesn't matter. They're only small necessities to hold up what is essentially a series of hand-to-hand combats.
Of those hand-to-hand combats, only one makes sense to have happen from a narrative-standpoint. All the others are basically pornographic. No doubt, they're all well staged and well photographed. The editing is also superb, not only visually but the sound editing is top notch as well, especially since Soderbergh ramps up each fight with a jazzy score and then once in the fight removes all music to emphasize the body hits.
What's great about these combats is they're filmed in wide-enough shots that the audience gets the sense that the actual actors are taking the hits and not stunt doubles. Unlike Paul Greengrass in The Bourne Ultimatum, which this movie draws obvious comparisons, its scenes aren't shaky handheld. The shots are still, allowing the audience to fully absorb each blow.
What's fun is that Carano isn't fighting random extras. She's fighting well-known actors like Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor. Tatum was in G. I. Joe, Fassbender in X-Men: First Class and McGregor in Star Wars: Episode III, so it's not as if these guys can't fight, and they certainly give Carano a run for her money.
All that being said, those three actors have characters that are pretty empty. They have no real personalities to any of them. They exist only to get their butts kicked so that Carano can go on to the next one. The only actors who stand out are the ones that she doesn't fight, which include Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton who plays her father, and Michael Angarano who ends up being the comic relief.
Other critics have commented on Carano's lack of acting and I have to concur. Carano is a one note action figure here and she's far behind other female heroines like Angelina Jolie in many of her action films, Zoe Saldana in Colombiana, Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 or Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.
This movie reminded me in small ways of last year's The Debt, which featured Jessica Chastain, as a kick-ass secret agent too. That performance was certainly more nuanced but because the screenplay provided richer material. Soderbergh's film is rich only in its orange-leaning color palette.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 33 mins.