(Matthew Polly is the author of Tapped Out and American Shaolin and various nuggets of awesome here on Fightlinker. We sent him out last week to interview Gina and check out her movie. Now here’s his review of Haywire, coming out Friday January 20th.)

“Well, there is one group that will be happy with that,” said Jim Genia, the author of the excellent Raw Combat, after the press screening of Haywire mercifully ended.

“Who?” I asked. “It was worse than Colombiana.”

“Strikeforce,” he said. “They’re getting their fighter back.”

It pains me to write that Jim is probably right. I’ve covered Gina for years, I trained in the same gym for six months while she was preparing for Cyborg, and I interviewed her for Haywire. She has never been anything but unfailingly polite, going out of her way to talk with me when MMA fighters of much lower levels of fame couldn’t be bothered. I knew she wanted this movie to be her big break in Hollywood. I did too, because she deserves it. She’s fought for nine years in an industry where Dana White couldn’t be bothered with WMMA, Gary Shaw grossly underpaid her, and Scott Coker pushed her into a match with an opponent everyone knew was juicing. But I haven’t seen a one-and-done like Haywire since Cindy Crawford’s Fair Game.

It didn’t have to be this way. Director Steven Soderbergh revived the movie careers of Terence Stamp (The Limey) and Jennifer Lopez (Out of Sight) and cemented George Clooney as the Cary Grant of our times. But like Anderson Silva circa Demian Maia, Soderbergh seems bored with the entire process, filming experiments like Solaris, Bubble, and The Girlfriend Experience (another bit of stunt casting with porn star Sasha Grey) that satisfy no one but his most diehard fans.

Soderbergh has even made noises about retiring from movies. On the basis of Haywire he’s half way to Florida, having already given up on basics like plot, character development, narrative logic, and realistic dialogue. All that he seems to still care about is style and cinematography. Haywire is a visually stunning movie. I felt like I was watching Picasso put lipstick on a pig.

(More after the jump)

Can Gina act, you ask? No, but she shouldn’t be able to. She should have started her career, like other aspiring starlets, cutting her teeth in Children of the Corn VI or playing the lesbian space marine in the Aliens reboot. Instead Soderbergh threw her into the deep of the pool with Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Michael Douglas. It’s the equivalent of doing a shark tank with BJ Penn, GSP, and Randy Couture. They might go easy on you, but no matter how much natural talent you have you’ll still look a rank amateur in comparison to such grizzled veterans.

Gina Carano’s only acting experience is playing Gina Carano: the chubby duckling turned svelte swan who flips her hair, bites her lower lip coquettishly, and mugs goofily for the cameras. That’s what made MMA fans fall for her. But instead of playing to her strengths, Soderbergh has her playing an unflappable, unstoppable, affectless killing machine—The Terminatrix. He even tweaked her voice in post-production so much that at times it sounded like they brought in a different actress with a serious smoking habit to redub certain sections. (Gina denied this in her interview.)

Is there anything redeeming about this movie? Not really. When you cast a martial artist/Maxim cover girl in an action flick, the minimum requirement is two hot sex scenes and three wicked fight sequences. To quote an ancient Hollywood proverb, “shit has its own integrity.” Haywire has two chaste kissing scenes and the fight choreography ranges from mediocre to Captain Kirk laughable. So much of the movie is spent with Gina sprinting through stylish European cities that in the third act when Gina finally takes her stand, saying “I’m not running anymore,” Peter Lampasona of fightnerd.com, who was sitting next to me in the screening, mumbled under his breath, “Good.” It was the funniest moment of the entire experience.

I hope Jim and I are wrong. I hope fans and critics adore Gina’s performance and turn Haywire into a huge blockbuster that cements her as the next Kate Beckinsale. But speaking as someone with very low standards when it comes to martial arts flicks, I doubt it. She’ll be back in the cage… Or in court, suing Soderbergh for malpractice.