Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The latest thriller from director Steven Soderberg is cool and brutally efficient, very much like its black ops protagonist Mallory Kane (played by mixed martial arts fighter turned actor, Gina Carano). When we first meet Mallory she’s on the run, taking shelter in a remote diner where an unwelcome Aaron (Channing Tatum) soon finds her. At first we suspect the sullen fellow is an estranged husband or boyfriend. But when the fists start flying and the gun comes out, we know these two are something else entirely. With the help of a fellow patron (and said patron’s car) Mallory escapes at high speed while relaying to her civilian benefactor the convoluted series of events that brought her to this point. The screenplay’s expository contrivance makes little sense, but the film’s brisk pace allows little time for contemplation. We learn that Mallory and Aaron worked on an extraction job in Barcelona set up by her handler (and former lover) Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) at the behest of shady U.S. government official Coblenz (Michael Douglas) for the benefit of slippery Rodrigo (Antonio Banderas). After the job Mallory attempts to sever business ties with Kenneth, but he persuades her to pose as the wife of British operative Paul (Michael Fassbender) for a “babysitting” job in Dublin. The job is a double cross, so she must escape hired killers, clear her name, and exact satisfying revenge. Screenwriter Lem Dobbs spends all his energy on the complicated plot and elaborate fights but leaves little room for character shading or moral ambiguity. This plays to Carano’s strength; clearly she is more comfortable (and better at) fighting than talking. Likewise the veteran actors around her provide solid, serviceable performances, with Bill Paxton making a welcome appearance as Mallory’s ex-Marine father. The exception is the exceptional Fassbender, who hints at depths where the script offers none and raises the stakes in the film’s most harrowing sequence. In his best films (like OUT OF SIGHT) Soderbergh juggles locales and timelines with practiced ease but maintains strong emotional underpinnings. Here he gets the heart pumping but rarely engages it.