Steven Soderbergh is nothing if not versatile - a director who seems like he can do everything.
From lighthearted heist ("Ocean's Eleven") to political biography ("Che"), apocalyptic thriller ("Contagion") to a remake of Russian science-fiction ("Solaris"), the director switches cinematic moods faster than Lady Gaga changes wardrobes. Now, he offers his take on "The Bourne Identity" action flick with "Haywire," a sporadically entertaining, if surprisingly inert, spy vs. spy headbanger.
When we meet Mallory (Gina Carano), she's on the lam, taking refuge in an upstate New York cafe. Aaron (Channing Tatum) has been assigned to bring her in - and she's not going quietly, leading to the film's most propulsive fight scene. As it turns out, Mallory's no criminal but an agent on the run and targeted for elimination.
But who's behind it? Is it her supervisor and former boyfriend (Ewan McGregor)? Is it someone higher up the food chain in the government (Michael Douglas)? Or is it the mysterious Spaniard (Antonio Banderas)? And how does the suave British agent (Michael Fassbender) fit in?
It doesn't really matter, as it's all just an excuse for Mallory to lay the beatdown on all those who cross her path. But if that's going to be the point of the movie, then the action scenes need to be both as hard-hitting as a swift kick to the head and as smoothly choreographed as "Swan Lake."
Except for that initial takedown, though, the action here comes off as stiff and stilted, lacking the sense of kineticism that makes the "Bourne" films such a blast.
Former mixed-martial arts fighter Carano is believable as someone who can more than hold her own going mano-a-mano, but she doesn't show much range as an actress. Meanwhile, the rest of the star-saturated cast walks through on autopilot.
It seems everyone involved is doing this as a kind of lark, especially Soderbergh. But maybe he learned something from this: that there are some things he can't do after all.