Steven Soderbergh's new flick Haywire hits theaters next week, and the plot revolves around a "super soldier" who seeks revenge after she's set up and betrayed during a mission. Usually, when the female lead in a movie has to do intense action sequences, the director trains an actress, hoping she'll be kick-ass. But in this case, Soderbergh hired a kick-ass woman — MMA fighter Gina Carano — and we're just hoping she can act.

There's a history of creating male action stars from athletes — Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme — but female boxers, bodybuilders or martial artists are seldom showcased the same way. Often, ladies in projects like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider or Buffy The Vampire Slayer are considered action heroines, but considering the musculature and physiques of the actresses (Angelina Jolie, Sarah Michelle Gellar), you might not be convinced that they could actually crack your skull in a beatdown. (Notable exception: Lucy Lawless in Xena: Warrior Princess, though she was actually an opera singer before she started wielding a sword.) Stunt woman Zoe Bell landed pretty substantial parts in Death Proof and Whip It, but hasn't been the lead in a big blockbuster.

Gina Carano trained in Muay Thai (kickboxing) and has had a pretty good career in mixed martial arts, so it comes as no surprise that her skills — lighting-quick wrestling moves, punishing kicks and sheer brute force — will be on display in Haywire. In the first five minutes of the movie (seen at left), she gets coffee thrown in her face, a cup smashed over her head, slammed to the ground and punched — but retaliates fast, getting Channing Tatum in a leglock and armlock, and, from what sounds like, snapping said arm. Even if you didn't know she was an MMA star, the ease and comfort with which she does the fight choreography and incapacitates the dude leave zero doubt that she could do it in real life. That believability (and Soderbergh's involvement) make this the kind of chick-driven action flick it feels good to get excited for — hopefully it can erase memories of last year's craptastic false-eyelash-strewn excuse for a girl-power flick, aka Sucker Punch. The downside, if there is any, is the fact that Gina Carano's voice was altered for the flick… When a lady puches you in the gut, she'd better sound sexy doing it, right?

'Haywire': First 5 Minutes of Steven Soderbergh's New Film Released [Hollywood Reporter]
HAYWIRE' STAR GINA CARANO: Vocally Challenged in Flick [TMZ]
HAYWIRE' STAR GINA CARANO:YES, My Voice Was Altered [TMZ]