I have seen the first superhero movie of 2012 and it is Steven Soderbergh's Haywire. It stars the Mixed Martial Arts champion/future household name Gina Carano. It's the greatest belated Christmas gift in years.
Haywire is, by no stretch, an intellectual night out at the cinema. It is yet another example of looking at a genre and thinking "what would a really tight, well-crafted version of that film look like?" What Soderbergh did for disaster movies with Contagion he does for late night cable action pictures with Haywire.
It's a little odd, because the picture begins with what I call the "Soderbergh hum" of saturated, cold video (it always takes a few minutes to adjust the eye) and it feels awkward against the very 1970s cop show music on the soundtrack. Then the first Gina Carano beatdown comes and you realize why this movie exists.
There have been a few attempts to bring champions of the Mixed Martial Arts world to cinema. Randy Coture and Redbel and Warrior haven't quite done it. Haywire makes it happen. Carano chokes a man with her thighs, springs off of walls, jumps out of high windows, hides in shadows and bashes heads against dinner tables. She'll also just come at you like a bull with plenty of warning and there's still no chance of survival. She's Liam Neeson from Taken but smart and gorgeous and often wearing tight clothes. Yes, you may as well just line up at the box office now.
Okay, so what about the story? Well, it's the same old thing (they sold me out! now they must pay!) but Soderbergh is too smart for that. He's perfected the art of showing you just 20% of what normal movies do to orient you in terms of backstory. It makes everything seem more interesting when you have to piece it together yourself. Good casting, like Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Mathieu Kassovitz, Antonio Banderas and Antoio Banderas' awesome beard go a long way to helping you fill in the blanks.