DVD Release Date: January 1, 2008
Release Date: September 7, 2007
Rating: R (for pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality, nudity and some language)
Run time: 87 min.
Director: Michael Davis
Actors: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci, Stephen McHattie, Greg Byrk, Daniel Pilon, Ramona Pringle, Julian Richings, Wiley M. Picket
You wouldn’t think a movie could be this bad with acting talent like Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci. But action-hero movie send-up Shoot ‘Em Up gives new meaning to the word “wretched.”
In some way you can see the filmmakers are attempting to spoof the genre by making the most over-the-top violent movie possible. Yet the extreme absurdity of the film makes for neither a great comedy, nor an interesting thriller. Throwing great actors in a film like this, who have nothing to do but shoot at one another, becomes a complete waste of talent and time.
The intense and irascible Smith (Clive Owen), begins the film on a bus stop bench, eating a large carrot, down on his luck and living in the midst of urban blight. His quiet evening of carrot munching is interrupted when a pregnant woman (Ramona Pringle) hurries by him, obviously in labor and obviously running from someone. As she ducks into a nearby alley, she is followed by a large man brandishing an even larger gun yelling about how he is going to kill her. In what is probably the only redeeming element of the film, Smith decides to be a good Samaritan and follows the pair into an abandoned warehouse. Before the large man can kill the pregnant lady, Smith kills the large man … with his carrot. But very quickly, more of the large man’s friends show up, lead by a half-crazed assassin named Hertz (Paul Giamatti), also intent on killing the pregnant lady. Gunplay ensues, accompanied by the usual blood spray and gore. Smith proceeds to deftly dispatch the generic army of goons while at the same time helping the lady deliver her baby boy. And as if to punctuate the absurdity of the situation, cuts the umbilical cord by shooting it.
Unfortunately, shortly after junior is born, mom is killed by a stray bullet to the head. This leaves the baby in the arms of Smith who takes him to the top of the building to escape Hertz and pursuing henchmen. Under a hail of gunfire, Smith escapes with the newborn by jumping off the roof and crashing through the window of the building next door. All of this happens in roughly the film’s first five minutes.
Not enough action for you, well you won’t wait long. Now pursued by Hertz and crew, Smith becomes the baby’s de facto protector and proceeds to go from one bloody gun battle to the next. (No doubt he will not, however, be able to protect this infant from the inevitable hearing damage sure to afflict the lad, having been in the midst of a dozen or more gun battles before reaching the ripe old age of one week.) Smith seeks out his prostitute friend Donna (Monica Bellucci), who recently lost a baby and is conveniently still lactating, to aid him in the care of the child while he figures out why all these men in black want the kid dead.
At first Shoot ‘Em Up seems not unlike a grittier Jackie Chan movie, with interestingly choreographed action sequences to take the place of the silly things, like plot structure, that most movies waste time on. Unlike a Chan vehicle, here we have little humor and no soul. As the physics-defying violence increases, each new action sequence does little more than “one-up” the previous one. It’s like the director is telling us, “You thought that was insane? Well, watch this!” What begins as ludicrous carnage, quickly become exploitive and preposterous.
Fortunately Smith is a marksman, and former “Black Ops,” so the child is in safe hands. Dodging the bullets of dozens of machine-gun armed men? No problem. Gunfight with armed parachutists as you tumble through the air having leaped from a plane? Smith is apparently the guy you want on your team. Not since Wild E. Coyote went into a gorge with an ACME rocket strapped to his back have we seen such gravity-defying physics on film.
Which is probably why the film fails—the action is “cartoonish” to the extreme. This makes the paper-thin plot, plastic characters and clichéd dialogue typical of such films even harder to swallow. You quickly forget here that Smith is a Good Samaritan, rising to help an innocent baby in his time of need. Such nobility is clouded by the buckets of gore.
(NOTE: You may be tempted to dismiss my thoughts here as the shriekings of an uptight Christian who doesn’t know how to enjoy a good action flick. On the contrary, I love good action movies. This one is extreme and exploitive violence for no reason other than spectacle.)
- Language/Profanity: A great deal of profanity, vulgarity and sexual innuendo.
- Sex/Nudity: Hertz sexually fondles a dead women. Women expose breasts while nursing. Smith goes to a bordello, that he apparently frequents, while looking for Donna. In this sequence we see glimpses of prostitutes in various states of undress, engaging in all manner of bizarre and disturbing sexual practices, with their “clients.” Donna performs oral sex on a stranger to get some money to “buy something nice for the baby.” During a break from the action, Donna and Smith have sex (in a very explicit scene) and bad guys arrive in their seedy hotel room to kill them. Smith proceeds to shoot and kill all the bad guys while the two of them continue to have sex.
- Violence: A large amount of graphic violence, too much to even catalogue or remember in detail. The movie goes from one gun battle to the next. Hundreds of blood-spurting gunshot wounds and knifings. Two scenes of torture. A man falls out of a plane and into the blades of a helicopter in flight. Smith has a penchant for munching on carrots, and also killing people with them in unique and interesting ways. He also takes and doles out a good number of beatings, one, for example, that leaves him with painfully broken figures and a scalpel stuck in his forehead.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Smoking and drinking alcohol shown in several scenes.