We have us a situation here where a champion athlete is making the transition to the big screen, which is not uncommon. Many famous athletes have debuted in some respectable mainstream roles.

Jim Brown began his acting career with a supporting role in a western called Rio Conchos. Chuck Norris’ first credited role was supporting Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon. Arnold Schwarzeneger burst upon the scene with a staring role in Hercules in New York, a 75 minute romantic comedy.

Gina Carano had a bit part in some low budget action movie called Blood and Bone, which went straight to DVD. So by comparison, it would appear that she started at the bottom, in an even humbler role than these male stars. But, she’s making up for it quickly.

Very quickly.

She has officially arrived with Haywire, her sophomore effort. And I do mean arrived. Director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven) built this movie around Carano. Here’s the full story of how it came about from the NYT. It’s an interesting twist of fate involving Moneyball and a woman named Cyborg, of all things.

It’s a big-budget action flick with supporting roles by Michael Douglas, Bill Paxton, Ewan Macgregor, and Michael Fassbender. That’s a serious all-star cast, all devoted to supporting or thwarting the heroine, Carano, in her quest for revenge against a shady group of US government contractors and international bad guys.

I liked this flick. It was kind of muted and understated compared to, say, the Bourne franchise, often regarded as the most artful of the spy/thriller/action movie genre. Carano doesn’t talk much, runs around a lot, and gives a fair amount of steely glares. The fight scenes are short and not particularly vicious, although people do die. I’m not a fight scene aficionado (in fact, I’m a man of peace), but they didn’t seem as violent, loud, and over the top as Bourne or Kill Bill.

Her physicality is certainly evident. Early on there’s a long chase scene through the streets of Barcelona where she’s running down a bad guy. Just running. There are overhead shots, close-ups, and wide angle views. It seems to go on a long time. When she finally catches the bad guy, the fight scene is only seconds. So it’s physical but not gratuitous, the opposite of a fight-fueled, Tarantino-ish frenzy.

I think Carano can do some damage in Hollywood (no pun intended). Unfortunately, she didn’t hold up that well against a bevy of female action characters with movies (Rooney Mara, Kate Beckinsale) in her first week. Oh well. This movie may get some positive word-of-mouth effect as the weeks progress.