The only important thing to take out of Haywire is the action scenes, which are violent, brutal, and feel very real. They’re insane, simply because many of the things that the fighters do at least appear to be impractical, but their appeal isn’t in realism; it’s in appearing as if the characters are really, truly fighting. You believe that all of the fight scenes are happening as they’re being filmed, simply because of the way that director Steven Soderbergh filmed them, and because of how physical the lead, Gina Carano, can be.

She, of course, used to be an MMA fighter, so it only makes sense that she can take a beating. I don’t know exactly how much of Haywire‘s fight scenes are “real,” or at least real enough to do damage to a person, but each one certainly seemed that way. They’re visceral and intense, and every time one starts — you’ll know when one’s about to happen, by the way, as it’s painfully obvious — you know you’re in for a treat. Assuming a violent hand-to-hand fight between Carano and a relatively well-known actor is what you consider a “treat.”

Think of the other actors that Soderbergh got to co-star in his film. The first big name we see is Channing Tatum, followed up by Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, as well as some smaller names like Michael Angarano or Bill Paxton. Man, we live in a world where Bill Paxton counts as a “small” name. Isn’t that kind of sad? I mean, he’s a good and charismatic actor, but he’s no longer prevalent or relevant. I think it’s kind of sad.

The plot involves Mallory Kane (Carano) being set-up by the agency for whom she works, presumably because there’s no better way to get us a revenge flick. She starts the film in a coffee shop, has a short conversation with Tatum’s character, and then beats the stuffing out of him in the first of many fight scenes. Prior to the fighting, during the conversation, we get many close-ups of both Carano and Tatum, and I thought that, perhaps, Carano could be a solid dramatic lead. Her face is well-suited for the close-up.

It’s only after she opened her mouth that I disqualified that notion from my mind. She has the type of face that works, and she has enough emotional range and depth to be effective. But her voice is the most monotone I’ve seen this side of Kristen Stewart. It lacks any sort range, staying in the same tone for the entirety of the film, regardless of what she’s trying to say. Most often, she comes off as sarcastic instead of genuine. I find that kind of fun, but it most certainly doesn’t work when she tries to have conversations with other people.

She carries herself very well in the fight scenes, which is likely the reason she was picked for the role in the first place. The former MMA-er knows how to fight, and brings a lot of her training and moves to the scenes here. More importantly, while she’s beating up all of the men in her life — seriously, there are only a couple who don’t get kicked in the teeth by her — it seems like it could actually happen because she’s believable in a role like this.

The plot is convoluted and nonsensical, ultimately factoring in very little despite all of the time dedicated to filling us in on it. We get a good 30 minutes explaining to us how Mallory finds herself in this situation, while the rest of the film has her seeking revenge for past deeds. That’s fine, but making the story so confusing is not. You need a bad guy or a series of bad guys, and a heroine who has reason to make them pay. That is all that ultimately matters here.

It is, eventually, entertaining, but it’s bound to lose a large portion it is audience when it’s still in “explaining mode.” We get one fight scene at the beginning, and then not a whole lot of that until one we’re past the half hour mark. Haywire had lost my focus, and it took quite a lot to win me back. Luckily, it eventually comes around, but it might be too much for some audience members to overcome. I can certainly understand that point of view. For a film that’s only around 90 minutes long, it feels a lot longer because of the first third.

Haywire will go to prove a few things. The first is that you can, in fact, make an action movie starring a female not named Angelina Jolie or Milla Jovovich. The second is that Steven Soderbergh can still do action, if he so chooses. The third is that it contains the type of action scenes we should strive for. They feel real, and put the main character in real danger. She could be just as easily killed as her opponent, which is more often the case in real life — or, at least, that’s how we perceive it should be.

Haywire is a good movie, but it’s very dull after its opening sequence, up until about the half hour mark, and it’s almost certainly going to put off a lot of viewers because of this. Is the payoff worth sitting through a pointless and convoluted plot? I’m not necessarily sure it is. The fight scenes are very impressive, and if you can persevere, they’re definitely worth seeing, but when a good third of the film’s running time is essentially rendered useless, I’m not sure if it’s a film that’s worth the entire time it would take to watch it.