Mallory (Carano) is a former military operative who's now a private contractor.
After working with Aaron (Tatum) on a rather dodgy kidnap-rescue in Barcelona, her U.S. Government boss Kenneth (McGregor) sends her to Dublin on an assignment with British agent Paul (Fassbender). But things quickly get messy and, when she ends up on the run, she desperately grabs a passerby (Angarano) and tells him her tale while figuring out what to do. The only men she trusts are a political puppet-master (Douglas) and her ex-military guru dad (Paxton).
Soderbergh shoots this in a remarkably realistic style that combines sleek, jazzy intrigue with painfully authentic fights. Whenever people square off, David Holmes' slithery score disappears so we can hear (and feel) every blow to the head. No stuntmen are used, so Soderbergh can also let us see the characters thinking through their next move, lashing out randomly, struggling to regain control. Each action set-piece is a breathless encounter that not only reveals character detail but propels the plot forward.
Carano is hugely watchable, underplaying the dramatic scenes while adding key details in the action sequences. And her A-list parade of partners and assailants adds plenty of interest; each of these men is a riveting mix of light and dark shadings, so even the smaller roles carry a lot of weight.
McGregor is especially good as the slippery guy behind most of the mayhem, Douglas brings some essential gravitas, and Banderas and Kassovitz (as back-room bosses) add dark menace with their shadowy characters.
And for an action film, there's a lot going on under the surface. Dobbs' smart, minimalist script explores the generational shift from clear-cut military motives to today's blurrier greed-based morality. Caught in the middle, Mallory is a woman with old-world values and new-world methods, not afraid to get her hands very dirty when she has to. But these actions affect her deeply, because she values her connections with those around her. Without people like Mallory, the world wouldn't stand a chance.
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Friday 20th January 2012
Box Office USA: $18.9M
Box Office Worldwide: $33.4M
Distributed by: Relativity Media
Production compaines: Irish Film Board, Relativity Media
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 145 Rotten: 36
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Producer: Gregory Jacobs
Screenwriter: Lem Dobbs
Starring: Gina Carano as Mallory Kane, Ewan McGregor as Kenneth, Michael Fassbender as Paul, Bill Paxton as John Kane, Channing Tatum as Aaron, Antonio Banderas as Rodrigo, Michael Douglas as Alex Coblenz, Michael Angarano as Scott, Mathieu Kassovitz as Studer, Eddie J. Fernandez as Barroso, Anthony Wong as Jiang, Tim Connolly as Jason, Max Arciniega as Gomez, Aaron Cohen as Jamie
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