We're accustomed to the coolest of locations in our Hollywood action-thrillers - Berlin, Budapest, Tangier etc - but Steven Soderbergh setting up the cameras on Lower Abbey Street and in the lane around the corner from Wynn's Hotel? What's next? Running across the road for the 31B and shouting 'action!' on a Mexican stand-off at Sutton Cross? Scratch your head about The Traffic director's choices, certainly, but buy a ticket for Haywire because it's classy covert ops stuff from start to finish, with Soderbergh deserving a Discover Ireland t-shirt for shining up the auld place so well.

In what could've been re-titled The Bird Identity for Irish audiences, mixed martial arts fighter (and one-time American Gladiator) Carano plays Mallory Kane, a former US Marine who now works for a private company that shady intelligence types have on speed dial. Just back in the US from one assignment, Kane's boss Kenneth (McGregor) asks her to help him out with another one - in Dublin - because the client has specifically requested her. In what Kenneth pitches as "a paid holiday", Kane is to pretend she's someone's other half, live the five-star life for a few days and get the job done. What he doesn't say is that she'll need the luck of the Irish to get home alive.

What Haywire lacks in backstories and character arcs it more than makes up for in shootouts and chokeholds - The Limey writer Lem Dobbs' script as fast and lean as Ms Kane. Either side of Russborough House and Heuston Station-spotting, Soderbergh serves up glorious set pieces in Barcelona, Upstate New York and New Mexico, with Carano one of the most convincing new ass-kickers of recent years. Sublime skills aside, she has real appeal for the simple reason that she's not a known face - thoughts like 'That's Angelina Jolie playing an action hero' aren't part of the viewing experience – and by avoiding dialogue-heavy scenes, Soderbergh does wonders for her screen presence. After this, there'll be plenty more opportunities to polish her chops. The other ones.

Kane says "she doesn't like loose ends", but a big part of Haywire's charm is that it's full of them and recalls Soderbergh's classic Ocean's Eleven quote about wanting to "make a movie that has no desire except to give you pleasure from beginning to end, a movie that you just surrender to, without embarrassment and without regret". Still need convincing? Well, David Holmes also provides a Schifrin-saluting soundtrack; there are nice turns from Banderas, Douglas and McGregor as the suits and, in a cameo for him to treasure, Fassbender pops up to ensure that you'll never look at the Shelbourne in quite the same way again.

Sequel please.

Harry Guerin