Film Reviews

Shoot 'Em Up Michael Davis

Rating - 7/10

After viewing Shoot 'Em Up, I was quick to point out three things to anyone who would listen:

1) I see a lot of movies.

2) I liked it. Take that, Transformers fans!

3) It is, in style, what Grindhouse and Kill Bill were before it: an intentionally dumb, over-the-top example of testosterone fuelled film-making.

But it wasn't until later that the most uneven of comparisons came into focus. In a way, and most fittingly, Shoot 'Em Up is the Americanized, overzealous, subtle-as-a-baseball bat version of Hot Fuzz, which in turn was a loving, overzealous, British homage to Americanized, overzealous, subtle-as-a-baseball bat action films. The difference is obvious: Shoot 'Em Up isn't a loving homage but an all-out carbon copy, a little brother with a knack for hanging out with the older kids. It's dumb, senseless and with little coherency, and, to put it bluntly, fun.

So Clive Owen plays "Mr. Smith," who, after witnessing a pregnant woman get chased down by a group of thugs, decides to involve himself in the situation by attempting to save the woman, take out a few hitmen, deliver a baby and, after the woman dies by gunfire, find a way to keep the baby safe and figure out what Hertz (Paul Giamatti) and his gang want with him. And yes, it's really, really dumb. Every line feels like a throwaway from a Resident Evil game while the gunfights are so elaborate and tailor made for video games that "lol" seems like a more appropriate response than actually laughing out loud. Its plot is so simplistic that a single subplot involving bone marrow and the government, as uncomplicated as it is, actually makes things complicated. That is how dumb Shoot 'Em Up is.

The fact of the matter is, as close as Shoot 'Em Up comes to being exactly the action film it seems to be parodying, it always manages to aim left into Die Hard With a Carrot Shoved Through Your Throat territory. Owen is finally the bad ass we always knew he could be (channelling his Children of Men saviour act with a wink), while Giamatti rolls with the punches as a scenery chewing hitman with a tendency for knowing exactly where to go at exactly the right time. Where is Mr. Smith going to take a newborn baby when he is in need of food? To one of the many lactating hookers populating New York, of course! That lends itself to the coherency issue. I had to look up where the film actually took place, and even then I had second thoughts. Why, for instance, would a gun proclaim the maker and a Florida residence and then the next scene show Owen striding up to the building? Where is the relevance to time and space?

But therein lies the very heart and charm of Michael Davis's gun toting ode to all things that go pew pew. It isn't smarmy, gross or vile, but an ironic, so-dumb-it's-smart diversion to the empty-headed, so-dumb-because-it-thinks-it's-smart movies populating theatres. It even makes the big, bad adversary a gun company, annotating the Second Amendment with one hand while firing a few rounds with the other. It is inane in the way the Sci-Fi channel will make an earthquake film centered on an escaped serial killer, except better. Did I mention it's got Monica Bellucci as that lactating hooker and Clive Owen?

So it's no The Bourne Ultimatum but it doesn't want to be. Its straight-to-video persona is best summed up by the recent The Simpsons Movie, where Homer stands up in a theatre and berates us for watching something we could see for free at home. It's true, too, like an X-Box that's lost its controller but keeps playing on without you. I guess you could say that's a gripe, but Shoot 'Em Up is too fun, too busy being suave and tongue-in-cheek to actually seem like a complete waste of time, even though you keep telling yourself you know it is. But then again, where else could you see Clive Owen doing exactly what you'd like to do with all those drivers who don't use their blinker only one - inch - away?