Have you ever watched an action flick that felt like all the cliché gunfights, explosions and wise cracks were planned out and a plot was shoved in almost as an afterthought? That's Shoot 'Em Up to a T. That's also one of the reasons that Shoot 'Em Up is so much fun. The back story barely matters. The action and the tongue-in-cheek psychotic blanket of violence and mayhem are the core of this film and it takes a lot of skill to make a film this dumb come off (to the experienced viewer) as intelligent.
We begin with Clive Owen sitting at a bus stop, minding his own forlorn business and enjoying a carrot when a pregnant woman (the lovely Ramona Pringle) sprint/ limps by him, chased by first one psycho, then an army of psychos. Sigh... I guess he'll have to play good guy today. Damn.
Within the next five minutes ol' Clive (who is frequently called Mr. Smith, whether that's his actual name or not) must dispatch a goon gang, deliver a baby, formulate a Neon Insult to beat all and make a staunch enemy of hit man, family man and poor caretaker of facial hair Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti). And poor Smith is armed only with that Carrot.
Let me tell you, folks, Clive Owen using a biennial root vegetable as a lethal weapon soon becomes one of the least extreme things in this movie. Before long, Smith, the Baby (soon dubbed "Oliver" after young Master Twist) and Smith's ally, erstwhile lover and new wet nurse, the prostitute Donna Quintano (beautifully played by Monica Bellucci and both her breasts, which is appropriate) are running from the bad guys and desperately looking for the good guys (whose membership roster is apparently shrinking like the GOP chances in '08), using every weapon available to them, from plants to diapers to ropes to... hey, sometimes even GUNS!!!
This puts Oliver in quite a lot of near misses, some of which are pretty hard to watch once in a while. Babies in Peril... not exactly the stuff of comic legend. However, this Bullet Proof Baby story is a good microcosm of Shoot 'Em Up on the whole. It takes things that are decidedly unfunny, twists them to their extremes and makes them absolutely hilarious in their deadpan delivery. There are a few cheap shots based around tugging the heart strings (again, babies in peril) and scatological humor (used sparingly) that somehow still manage not to bring the film down.
This is where Shoot 'Em Up is especially interesting, as... well, it has heart. Oh, it's a rather bizarre, demented and comical heart, but it's there, especially in seeing these two societal fringe players solving a groovy mystery and somehow becoming a family amid the chaos. Monica's incredible sex scene is worth the entire movie, even if the rest isn't your cup of tea. You might cringe and tense up on the way to that bright horizon, but you're sure to be laughing while you do it.
To be sure, Shoot 'Em Up is not for everybody. Though both Smith and Donna are ultimately likeable, they're still crazy players in a crazier story. Unquestioning fans of straight Action along with those who can't hang with this kind of Comedy might be completely turned off here, and will likely come out of this film thinking it "stupid". Shoot 'Em Up is packed with the unapologetically impossible, with Clive Owen's character pulling off a number of feats no ordinary human being could. Much of the comedy surrounds the sheer volume of thugs that Giamatti (and his erstwhile allies Stephen McHattie's Hammerson, Greg Bryk's Lone Man, Daniel Pilon's Rutledge and about a thousand other guys) throw at this trio in order to ice all three of them while all three remain alive and the body count rises. Whether it's roping down a stairway with a machine gun, rocketing through windshields to survival, coming up with new, creative and disturbing uses for a Carrot (many not even George Washington Carver came up with for the Peanut) or gunfighting in the clouds, you may never buy a single thing that Smith does, but you may love the way he does it. Oliver has his share of super-moments too, which may or may not be in good taste, depending on yours.
All in all, this is one incredibly ridiculous and unbelievable movie best suited for fans of Sin City or Kill Bill (though in truth, this film doesn't truly resemble or derive from either of those). The quirkiness of the characters helps keep the film going, even (and especially) when we break out of the realistic into the surrealistic with one fell shot. From Donna's angry delving into beautiful Italian when she loses her cool to Smith's comical dichotomies to Hertz' evil rampages, interrupted only by calls from his wife to discuss their son, there is no dearth of strange laughs at virtually every turn. Personally, I love the movie and I could stand to see it a few hundred more times. Objectively, the intentionally bizarre nature of Shoot 'Em Up makes it a great film for fans, but as a full fledged movie taken for all with all, it's worth Three and One Half Stars out of Five! Check it out if you can take it! It's a classic of the genre. However, make sure you realize what genre you're stepping into before you fork over your nine bucks. One shouldn't go into a movie called "Shoot 'Em Up" expecting Citizen Kane, but hey, it's your call! Meanwhile, I'm contemplating an entire season of WorldsGreatestCritic.com focusing solely on Monica Bellucci movies. "Long Hot Winter", anyone? RrrrrrrrrrrrOWrrrrrrrrrrr!
|What's New?||Alphabetical Listing of Reviews!||SearchThisSite:||Advertise With Us!||About...||Lynx Links:||F*A*Q|