The relentless action found in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire is tailored to lead actor Gina Carano’s unique skill set: a former American Gladiator and mixed martial arts fighter, Carano puts all those powder-puff pugilists to shame. Here she is Mallory Kane, a black ops agent who frees a Chinese journalist held hostage, but then finds a target on her back from someone within her own agency. As far as Mallory is concerned, everyone is a suspect, from her boss (Ewan McGregor), to her co-worker (Channing Tatum), to higher-ups and fellow assassins (Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas). Soderbergh introduces a Euro feel and subdued palette, but then infuses the film with an impressive array of ass-kickings, including a battle between Mallory and another agent (Michael Fassbender) after they’ve spent the night posing as a married couple. (Isn’t that how all date nights end?) As an ice-cold operative, Carano isn’t required to do much heavy-lifting, acting-wise, which suits the film just fine. Reportedly, the only injury on set was when McGregor threw a punch that connected with Carano’s ribs: Carano was fine, McGregor sprained his hand. The espionage plot gets a little muddled, but there's no denying the potency of Carano's punches as she checks the bad guys off her list.
Special features on the standard disc include a spot devoted to Carano’s training regimen, including weapons training (and flashbacks to her first MMA fight, where Soderbergh first spotted her), interviews with the Men of Haywire, and trailers.
Vampires just love Vancouver. Is it the perpetual dampness or the tax credits that make our city so appealing to the Twilight and Underworld folks? The fourth Underworld tale has Kate Beckinsale once again zipping up the skin-tight rubber suit and fighting baddies up at Simon Fraser University and other locales, but this time she’s doing battle with the humans who have kept her on ice for more than a decade. When Selene thaws, she sets off in search of her werewolf boyfriend Michael, but discovers another ally instead. Selene exerts grisly girl power at every juncture, as she takes on her human adversaries and discovers that the lycans are not as cowed as she thought them to be. Skulls are split, bodies decapitated and throats ripped out: there’s more blood here than in an abbatoir. The mythology is briefly rehashed in the intro, but if you’re new to the franchise, you’ll find the story lacking. Visual effects are high calibre, though undoubtedly the proceedings would have been more thrilling in 3-D and on the big screen. Stephen Rea looks miserable as a scientist with a dark purpose. Maybe it’s all those injections? Michael Ealy is more fun to watch as the cop who helps Selene; ditto Theo James as a hunky Lycan leader.
Special features on the standard disc include an informative but somewhat dry commentary with directors, producers and the visual effects supervisor.