Whether you like your movie violence extremely bloody, completely unbelievable or just comically ridiculous, “Shoot ‘Em Up” is just the ticket for a good (if very loud) time.
To enjoy “Shoot ‘Em Up,” you will need a wicked sense of humor and be able to laugh at every action movie cliché that director Michael Davis tosses at the audience. There are plenty of death-defying stunts, cheesy one-liners and deafening shootouts that are sure to delight those who don’t take it seriously.
While this may sound like a complete B-movie, it has an A-list cast and impressive production value. English actor Clive Owen plays the traditional anti-hero, simply known as Smith, though his real name is never revealed. He’s kind of like Clint Eastwood’s stoic “Man With No Name” character, except that he’s required to move a lot faster and kill many more people to stay alive in this fat-paced story. Paul Giamatti, who was nominated for an Oscar for “Cinderella Man,” but should have been nominated for 2004’s “Sideways” the same year that Owen was nominated for “Closer,” plays the villain, Hertz. Monica Bellucci (“The Passion of the Christ”) plays Donna, an acquaintance of Smith’s who gets caught up in all the dangerous gunplay.
To give you a sense of how over-the-top and crazy the movie is, here’s a description of the opening scene. Smith, who oozes careless coolness as portrayed by Owen, is sitting alone at a bus stop bench at night in less-than-safe-looking neighborhood. He is crunching on a carrot, a prop he always has at his side and an obvious homage to Bugs Bunny (At one point in the film, he even asks, “What’s up, Doc?” to which Hertz replies, “Ooh, you are a wascally wabbit.”). Just then, a pregnant woman on the verge of labor runs past him as she is chased by some bearded creep with a gun. Smith nonchalantly decides to help the woman and follows them into a warehouse. He actually kills the guy by impaling his face with the carrot (I’m not kidding). Of course, that doesn’t end the ordeal, since dozens of gun toting thugs replace him at once and begin the first of many impressive gunfights in the film. In the midst of shooting at all these bad guys, Smith must shield himself and deliver the baby, coaching the stranger to push. Yeah, it’s pretty out there, but by this time, I was already laughing my head off in disbelief.
So why are these men chasing a pregnant woman and why do they want the baby (whom Smith names Oliver after the orphan in Charles Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”) after she dies? I won’t tell you hear. Not because it would spoil it for you, but because you really wouldn’t care if I told you out of context. Actually, chances are you might still not care while watching the movie, but this narrative device keeps the plot and the action moving as Smith must constantly stay one step ahead of his pursuers.
Giamatti is a real kick as Hertz, an absolutely soulless villain who is deft at staying on Smith’s tail thanks to his past as an F.B.I. profiler. Yet while killing dozens of innocent people, he answers his wife’s cell phone calls to tell he’s going to be gone for a little longer or to promise he will make it to their son’s birthday party. All the while, he grunts orders to kill anyone who gets in the way of his plans, whether it be an opponent or simply one of his incompetent employees. But he’s not the type of bad guy to only let others carry out his dirty work. He’s a hands-on kind of monster, joyously wielding his weapons on every step of the journey.
The action in “Shoot ‘Em Up” doesn’t pause very often to take a breath, and there are great chases and fights. One highlight is when Smith follows his enemies by jumping out of a plane and engaging in gunplay in midair at high altitudes as they all plummet toward the earth. There are also tons of humorous moments, such as when Smith demonstrates the mechanics of a pistol to the newborn Oliver as the baby smiles his little gleeful toothless grin.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, “Shoot ‘Em Up” is clearly not for everyone. But if you can handle over-the-top and unrealistic movie violence and movies with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks, then it just may make your day.
“Shoot ‘Em Up” is rated R. No one under 17 admitted without a parent or guardian.