Shoot Em Up
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted/Alternate Scenes; Commentary By Writer/Director Michael Davis; ‘Ballet Of Bullets’ – Making Of Featurette; Animatics; Theatrical Trailer.
MICHAEL Davis’s Shoot ‘Em Up takes aim at everything from John Woo and the Spaghetti Westerns to Bugs Bunny and The Road Runner cartoons – but lacks the sophistication of any of those references.
At best, it’s a guilty pleasure designed to titillate anyone seduced by balletic gun porn; at worst, it’s a crass and occasionally depraved orgy of bad taste that could just as easily leave viewers with an unpleasant taste.
The film picks up as Mr Smith (Clive Owen) is quietly sitting on a bench, minding his own business and munching on carrots, when he’s forced to protect a pregnant woman from a crazed gunman just as she’s about to give birth.
When the same woman is killed soon afterwards by more gunmen – led by a scheming, mind-reading hitman (Paul Giamatti) – Mr Smith is forced to fend for the child himself and teams up with a lactating prostitute (Monica Bellucci) in order to make sense of the situation while dodging the bullets.
Davis does, at least, score points for managing to keep things inventive, balancing quirky characters with exaggerated set pieces and taking debauchery to new extremes (such as a gun-fight mid-sex scene). And he also coaxes enjoyable performances from his excellent leading trio.
Clive Owen is suitably moody and glib as the carrot-chewing hero/Bugs Bunny figure who is as lethal with vegetables as he is with his trigger finger, while Paul Giamatti is clearly have a blast as the scenery-chewing villain (with more than a touch of the Wily Coyote about him). Bellucci, meanwhile, oozes sex appeal without necessarily generating much chemistry.
But given the director’s insatiable need to try and top himself with each new set piece, Shoot ‘Em Up eventually winds up shooting blanks or, to coin a phrase from the film itself, “shooting its load” too early and eventually gets just plain ridiculous (the parachute sequence).In so doing, characters cease to become interesting and the film is stripped bare of any emotional investment.
What’s left is a morally vacuous action vehicle that’s fun in places but instantly forgettable. Shoot ‘Em Up will undoubtedly find cult status, but it falls some way short of becoming a classic and that, for Davis, marks something of a backfire.
Running time: 86mins