Thursday, June 24, 2010

Most straight-forward action film ever?

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci
Director: Mike Davis
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

A mysterious drifter known as Mr. Smith (Owen) inadvertently ends up the protector of a newborn baby who is being hunted by a hoard of violent gunmen, led by a former FBI profiler named Hertz (Giamatti). It's a good thing that Our Hero is a one-man army will skills that James Bond and Jason Bourne would envy, and an imperviousness that only Bugs Bunny can match.

"Shoot 'Em Up" is perhaps one of the most honestly titled and promoted films of all time. It truly is about shooting holes in people, cars, planes... just about anything that appears on screen. It can only be summarized as Frank Miller's "Sin City" graphic novels meet John Woo's "Hardboiled" and collides with Marvel Comics' "The Punisher" as he was portrayed in the mid- to late-1990s.

It is perhaps one of the wildest action movies ever put on screen, and, with the exception of one romantic interlude and sex scene (that itself leads into one of the most outrageous action scenes I've ever seen) the action doesn't stop once it gets going some five seconds into the film. And as the movie spirals further and further into outrageousness, action movie fans will and cheer and not give one whit that the plot linking the cartoony, gory violent set-pieces makes increasingly less sense.

"Shoot 'Em Up" succeeeds due to its great cast, but even more because of its precisely choreographed gunfights that get evermore rediculous--culimating with a shootout that takes place while characters are skydiving. The film is also fun, because it acknowledge its silliness--most evidently when the carrot-chomping hero asks the villian, "What's up, Doc?"--while every actor in the film plays their role with utmost seriousness. (Owen and Giamatti are especially fun, as a pair of characters who emerge as a sort of live-action Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.)

Another reason the film succeeds are some very odd touches and elements that appear as the film unfolds. Without spoiling too many surprises, I can mention that the first of these is the gunfight that Mr. Smith has with a gang of assassins while helping a woman give birth--as he is snuffing out lives left and right, he is bringing a new one into the world. There's also a recurring theme of gun control and gun safety that keeps cropping up. And there are also some very odd quirks on the part of both Mr. Smith and his foe Mr. Hertz that essentially end up defining them.

If you have a sense of humor, and you like your action movies light on plot and characterizations but heavy with action and heroic good guys and utterly dispicable bad guys, you absolutely must see "Shoot 'Em Up".


  1. I love this movie, its like it parodies its own stupidity. Plus, Paul Giamatti is batshit.

  2. Shoot 'Em Up Rocks! Clive Owen at his best! "Eat your vegetables!"