With the pulsating – and criminally under celebrated – 2012 espionage thriller, Haywire, Oscar winning director, Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich), introduced a new female action hero in the shapely but hard-muscled form of Mixed Martial Arts fighter turned actress, Gina Carano. Their dual creation (along with screenwriter, Lem Dobbs) is Mallory Kane, a black ops agent with a surprisingly rigid moral code who seeks revenge when she is betrayed by her colleagues. Like a female Jason Bourne without the amnesia (she is all too aware of the blood on her hands from past assignments), Mallory is suddenly on the run, pursued by equally adept and wholly lethal agents played by Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum.
In a bold move, Soderbergh doesn’t hesitate in having his male characters beat the living soul-case out of his female protagonist. “The point was to, in essence, de-genderise her, and to not be patronising by treating her any differently than I would a male character,” the director told Slant. “That was my attitude: don’t do anything with her that you wouldn’t do with a guy. It would be insulting, in fact, to tell the guys, ‘Don’t hit her in the face because she’s a woman.’ That’s not the world that we’re in. I felt like it was time. And I like that she takes it and then she dishes it out. Gina was the person on the set telling them, ‘You’ve got to hit me harder!’”
Indeed, it is Carano’s bruising physicality and utter believability as a bone-crunching operative (the actress has since appeared in In The Blood, Extraction, and the smash hit, Deadpool) that makes Mallory Kane so instantly indelible. She’s cool under pressure, tough without being vicious, and physically commanding. Carano also helped to choreograph the film’s extraordinary fight scenes. “I wasn’t there to hurt anybody,” she told FilmInk. “The stunt crew had told me, ‘You’re going to be the stunt girl and the lead actress. You have two jobs.’ Usually they rely on the stunt people to take care of the actors. But I was playing both of those roles. It wasn’t really hard to do because all these actors wanted to do everything themselves. There’s not one thing that they didn’t want to do. Even when they were off camera, they wanted to do everything themselves. I don’t know if that’s normal with films, but I got pretty lucky with some pretty great guys.” And action fans got lucky with Gina Carano and Mallory Kane.