Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Steven Soderbergh is becoming increasingly strong on convolution and weak on connection. Simple stories are anathema to him to the point that sometimes they don't even fit in one film (Che 1 and 2). And when he tries to confine complex plots into a single movie - such as last year's Contagion - the mechanics of what is happening end up so crammed that they bully any emotional resonance out of the door.

This time, poor old emotion isn't just left on the doorstep, it's given a one-way ticket to Don't Ever Come Back by screenwriter Lem Dobbs (The Limey, Kafka), in favour of a narrative that sprinkles the old betrayed-agent-goes-rogue cliche, with the spice of hard-core female kick-ass (chick-ass?) action.

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To be fair, the action portion of the film is Soderbergh's strongest element, as he has chosen to cast mixed martial artist Gina Carano in the central role of Mallory Kane to create a sort of Babe Identity. Like Bourne before her, she brings a welcome physicality to the sort of role that is usually populated by waifs who look as though they couldn't knock the skin of a bowl of custard let alone the socks of a bad guy. Carano has no such problems, and her fighting skills mean that Soderbergh can let the camera linger on every bone-crunching shot. Carano even makes a decent fist of the acting in the brief scenes when a hint of character is allowed to pop its head over the parapet, suggesting that she could have a long action film career ahead of her.

These moments are few and far between, however, in a plot framed by a kidnap of a random guy in a diner to whom she tells her tale - a tale that sees her ricochet through Europe, leaving a tangle of beaten-up cannon-fodder male bodies in her wake as she tries to find out what, if anything, her slimy boss Ewan McGregor has to do with the fact that an eye-candy job in Ireland (with the ever-watchable Michael Fassbender) turned out anything but sweet.

Soderbergh lays the pretension on thick in flashbacks to the Barcelona gig that is clearly at the root of her problems, with slo-mo here and black and white there doing nothing to distract from the fact that it has all the substance of a chocolate bar advert. Some late in the day comedy also strikes a false note in a film that offers a brief kick for action fans and a hint of better things to come for Carano but fails to be a real contender in any other department.

Reviewed on: 18 Jan 2012
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An betrayed agent goes rogue in search of revenge.
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BIFF 2012

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The Bourne Identity