Shoot’Em Up Review

Dir: Michael Davis
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci
Run. Time: 86mins

When he has to deliver a baby in the middle of a shootout Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) is drawn into a frantic game of cat and mouse as he tries to keep the baby and himself alive as well as find out the reason the child was targeted for assassination.

Shoot ‘Em Up is absolutely ridiculous. It’s about being absolutely ridiculous. It’s also smart, charming and tremendous fun. The plot serves only to drive the action. The characters serve only to shoot guns or be shot by them. This is action cinema stripped down to its bare minimum and it’s fantastic. Each action scene is insane. This film is not based in any reality I’m familiar with but the cast and crew know this and they play around with it to great effect. The first sequence sees Clive Owen deliver this baby whilst covering the entrances to the make-shift maternity ward and when he doesn’t have a scalpel for the umbilical cord the answer is the same as the answer to every other problem in this film. If what I’ve said so far sounds only stupid then don’t waste your money on this film. If, however, it seems stupid AND AWESOME! then this may be the most fun you have in the cinema this year. You do have to “get” the movie to enjoy it and the slightly sick sense of humour that goes along with that is required for some of the laughs you can get from this movie. It’s tailored for a very specific audience. Mine.

It’s all about enjoying a slice of action cinema and whenever that’s accepted the filmmaker’s go wild. The tone of the film is established in the very first scene and the pace never really lets up. You’re just left waiting to see how gloriously silly the next action scene is. Every one of them has a hook or gimmick and every one of them works and entertains. I should probably list the different situations but I really don’t want to ruin any of the surprise or the fun. As long as you understand action cinema then you’ll understand how this film is a simultaneous pastiche and homage to the genre, in an even purer, more distilled form than, say, Hot Fuzz and you should love it. It really does feel like they took that scene from Hard Boiled and the amped up how stupid the film was.

An honourable mention has to go to the photography. Despite some poor computer graphics the film maintained a wonderfully dense and gritty aesthetic that really suited the characters and setting

The cast, thankfully, understand the film and play it for the essentially exploitative film that it is with relish. Clive Owen makes a great mysterious hardass, making me look forward to his upcoming James Ellroy adaptations. He plays a brooding hero very well and rightly doesn’t take the role too seriously. Paul Giamatti is absolutely out of control as the villain and seems to be having a great time. This is a long way from a film like Sideways where he’s just incredible but he makes a great hammy villain, even if he’s a lot sicker than the classical pantomime role. And Monica Bellucci is suitably sexy as the female lead. They don’t really have much to do in the way of acting but it doesn’t really matter.

Another film with a similar feel was last year’s Crank, which I also loved. It had a less ambitious plan and felt much tighter with equal charm. I don’t know which film is better but if you liked Crank then you should enjoy this film.

One of the scenes isn’t particularly well executed but the concept is superb. This is a film that doesn’t ever quite recognise its own limitations and while this lends it charm it does detract slightly from the visual experience.

This is a worthy entry into its subgenre and an absolute blast if you’re prepared for what this film is and it makes no apologies about that either. Excellent work.

In Brief: Provided you’ve watched an action film and shouted “YES!” at the screen and you know what “awesome” means then you’ll love this movie. A classic in a niche market, Shoot ‘Em Up is almost too much fun.

Originally posted Sunday, 23 September 2007.

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