Directed by: Michael Davis
Premise: A former special-ops soldier (Clive Owen) unwittingly becomes the protector of a newborn when he witnesses the mother’s death by a team of assassins. With the help of a recently pregnant prostitute (Monica Bellucci) he defends the baby and tries to deliver the boy to safety.
What Works: Shoot ‘Em Up is a lot of fun. From beginning to end the film is crammed with shootout and stunts, pausing every now and then for a one liner from Clive Owen, the child’s protector, or Paul Giamatti, the leader of the death squad. Many of the stunts and scenarios cross the line from reality to exaggeration, but Shoot ‘Em Up borders on being a satire of action films like those made by Arnold Schwarzenegger throughout the 1980s and the films of Steven Seagal, Chuck Norris, or Jean-Claude Van Damme. The film has such a sense of humor about what it is doing that the violence takes on the quality of a Warner Bros. cartoon. Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen are very good, and casting these talented and respected actors in their roles helps lift the film out of what might otherwise have been a dull exercise in gunfights. Owen radiates action-film-cool, film and he turns the character into a contemporary John Wayne-like figure. Giamatti delivers a sinister but very humorous performance as an antagonist who is much smarter than the stock villains that usually populate this kind of film.
What Doesn’t: Shoot ‘Em Up is not brilliant storytelling. Although the film picks up and amplifies the fun elements of other action films, it also picks up their weaknesses. Plot holes abound, characters appear in places for no particular reason, gravity spontaneously suspends itself, and police are nowhere to be seen. The one liners by Owen and Giamatti are not as funny as they could be and Monica Bellucci’s character does not do much in the story except what Owen’s character tells her to do. A lot of the stunts and characters of Shoot ‘Em Up have been seen in other places. The chase scenes are lifted from The Bourne Supremacy and the airplane and parachute sequence is right out Eraser, for example.
Bottom Line: Shoot ‘Em Up knows that it is dumb, but not stupid, and plays up the outrageousness of the situation. For that self-awareness, the film delivers an entertaining popcorn film. It is, for lack of a better term, a guy movie, and it is easy to envision a roomful of college age men enjoying Shoot ‘Em Up on a double bill with 300, cheering on the film in between keg stands.
Episode: #156 (September 9, 2007)