Like Lizbeth Salander, Mallory is a woman who would just as soon kick ass rather than take names. Make sure your “Last Will and Testament” is ready to be probated before trying to have sex with her.

HaywireIt’s safe to say that Haywire is one of the first really feisty movies of 2012. It is inventive, unique, dark and thrilling, and you are likely to rediscover why action films abecause it focused on the subject of mixed martial arts.

Drawing that same analogy, my fear is that Haywire will be rejected by many because Gina Carano, a well-known celebrity on the mixed martial arts circuit, is the female lead. However, just as Warrior was able to transcend an otherwise pedestrian sports premise, Haywire succeeds in taking Ms. Carano to a pedestal seldom enjoyed by women on the screen.

Here, she plays Mallory, an extraordinarily violent woman for hire in the dark world of espionage. Set up on a mission in Barcelona that goes tragically wrong, it is clear from the beginning scene that her life is threatened, and that she thereafter is forced to survive in a spectacular fashion on both her wits and immense physical skills.

In many ways, Mallory has a lot in common with Lizbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Though she is without tattoos or any facial piercings, she is a nasty woman who you challenge at the risk of your own safety. While these women clearly have the holy hell beat out of them, both are dedicated to the simple premise of getting even.

Though the basic plot hardly qualifies as an intellectual challenge, it certainly requires the audience to hang on its every turn. In addition, what makes Haywire so over the top successful is a litany of unexpected stars. You literally don’t know if you can trust any of them, and you can’t tell who deserves to live or die.

All of the men play dark figures with unknown agendas, and they are all an extraordinary treat to watch. Think about a group of would-be villains played by Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Antonio Banderas and you get a brief understanding of Ms. Carano’s fight for her life. Director Steven Soderbergh handles her scenes with these men in a raw fashion that is visually stunning, although any description would unfairly deny you the thrill of watching the film from beginning to end.

In addition, I should also point out that Bill Paxton plays Mallory’s father, and he is the one man in the entire film that you know will not betray her. In addition, Channing Tatum plays Aaron, a colleague of Ms. Carano who clearly loves her despite their occasional violent fights. If nothing else, it is worth acknowledging the performance of Mr. Tatum given the fact that he will soon appear with Jonah Hill in the clearly lamentable 21 Jump Street.

Most of you already completely know that Steven Soderbergh is a difficult director to trust. While I really liked his last two films, last year’s Contagion and The Informant! (2009), he is also capable of making such regrettable movies as Oceans 12 (2004) and 13 (2007); The Good German (2006); Solaris and Full Frontal (both 2002). And even though he is singularly responsible for assisting Julia Roberts win a totally undeserved Oscar for Erin Brockovich (2002), it would be unfair to overlook his success in the original Oceans 11 (2001) and Traffic (2000).

Regardless, while Haywire is not a great movie, it is certainly worth seeing. Whatever you may think of the plot, Ms. Carano is not the type of American girl who simply wants to have fun. I wonder if Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Aniston are listening?