Shoot ‘Em Up

Shoot ‘Em Up

Film review by: Witney Seibold


“Fuck you, you fucking fucker.”

                        -Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) in “Shoot ‘Em Up”


            “Shoot ‘Em Up” finally has the balls to be what most action films want to be. A lot of low-aiming gun-toting action spectaculars (not the films which actually aspire to be something, but the kind of film that only wants to be “adrenaline-soaked thrill ride,” as their posters scream to the teenage boys going in) only wish they can reach the level delirious mayhem that is in every scene of “Shoot ‘Em Up.” Every line of dialogue in “Shoot ‘Em Up” feels like an action film recitation. Every gun battle is improbable and defies gravity and reality and logic. Every emotional moment is saturated with melodramatic overplaying. I would say that “Shoot ‘Em Up” goes over the top, but it really hardly bothers to acknowledge that there’s a top at all, as it rockets past “over,” and shoots into the atmosphere.


            I’m not going to tell you what the story is, as it’s totally inconsequential. It involves the fate of a baby that Mr. Smith delivers at the beginning of the film (he shoots the umbilical cord off), and a vicious growling assassin (Paul Giamatti) bent on the infant’s demise. Also, there’s a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold-and-breasts-of-platinum (Monica Bellucci) who steps in to help Smith with parental duties. What’s more important that the actual plotting is the set-pieces.


            Here’s some stuff from “Shoot ‘Em Up:” Two (2) people are stabbed with carrots. A carrot is also used several times to pull gun triggers. There is a gun battle while the characters skydive. A park carousel, doors, human arms, and filing cabinets are all pushed around with bullets. There is a robot baby (!). Mr. Smith flies out of one car directly into another. There is a plot to harvest bone marrow from unsuspecting donors. There are bullets fired without the aid of a gun. There are guns fired via puppetry. One character deduces their destination because of an infant’s love of death metal.


            In addition to the gem above, here are some choice lines of dialogue from the film:


            “Guns don’t kill people, but they sure help.”


            “Eat your vegetables.”


            “So much for seatbelts.”


            “I’m a British nanny, and I’m dangerous.”


            “You know what I hate…?”


            Obviously, none of this in meant to be taken seriously, and everyone is in on the joke. Owen and Giamatti chew scenery as if they haven’t eaten in weeks, and the director, Michael Davis, never takes the high road, when a vicious gun battle on the low road will do. Giamatti especially, must have had fun finally playing an out-and-out killer after so many times playing the misanthropic schlump. This is not a film about tension, character, or story. It is a film about cool and genre conventions, and it does those things very, very well.

             Is this film for you? Well, you already know that. I spent most of the film squealing in giddy glee, and don’t be surprised if I mention it at the end of the year when it comes time to sum up the year’s best films.



Published in: on September 13, 2007 at 9:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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