Gina Carano may be the worst actress I’ve ever seen in anything. She is definitely the worst actress I’ve ever seen in a major picture by a major director (Steven Soderbergh). This makes sense when you remember that Carano isn’t actually an actress, she’s a professional mixed martial artist, AKA a professional puncher of other chicks in the face. (Actually, if we’re going to be precise, she’s a professional kicker of other chicks in the face. Her specialty is muay Thai.) She’s extremely good at it, too – at one time she was ranked third in the world – which is how Soderbergh came to see her on TV and decide she would be a great female action star. It doesn’t hurt that she looks like this:
This is Carano at a weigh-in.
In Haywire, an action movie as formulaic as they come, Carano plays Mallory Kane, a Blackwater-type operative whose organization has hung her out to dry. She’s hunting down the people who etc etc etc, who cares, am I right? The point of the movie is to watch Carano kick ass, and she does so with aplomb. The action-y high point of the movie is widely considered to be her hotel room battle royale with my boyfriend Michael Fassbender in which they slam each other into a variety of surfaces including, but not limited to, one another’s fists and knees. Fassbender is one of the only people in the movie who can act worth a damn, which makes it just a little bit sadder when he meets his end. He is accompanied by a scenery-nibbling Michael Douglas, as the mysterious government guy who makes all the problems go away, and a staggeringly miscast Ewan MaGregor as the man in charge of the Blackwater-type organization. This is a dude most recently known for playing the twee son of a late-blooming gay guy in last year’s gorgeous Beginners. I’m not saying he doesn’t have range, because he does and I think he’s fantastic, but being a convincing action star is less about acting well and more about being large and/or visually intimidating and/or quietly menacing – which, actually, is less an action movie characteristic and more a thriller one – none of which McGregor manages at all. For that, or at least for large and visually intimidating, we have Channing Tatum, whose useless-large-and-good-at-fighting schtick is a perfect counterpart to Carano’s useless-pretty-and-good-at-fighting skill set. Tatum is somewhat less pretty. A lot somewhat. And he’s about as good at acting as Carano. She might be better.
In the end, whether or not you enjoy Haywire is going to be about whether you like this sort of thing going in. It will win no converts, and I don’t think it’s trying to. For me, I like action movies, and I support more of them starring chicks, whether they can act or not. And honestly, it’s not that Carano’s always unconvincing. She just has one mode: calm, cool, collected and most likely about to rip your face off. This is not always the appropriate mode, but it’s passable when it works. Otherwise, just close your eyes and think of face-kicking.