Friday, September 7, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up


What’s Up, Glock?

Shoot ‘Em Up is yet another action movie in a year filled with action movies. What sets this one apart is that the violence is so over the top, the set pieces so ludicrous, the acting so hammy that you have to take notice. It’s as if an adult cartoon had come to life and was playing out on the screen before you. With the best genre title since Snakes on a Plane, Shoot ‘Em Up knows what it is, and embraces its excesses so much, it’s hard not to like. The problem is that the best cartoons of this ilk are shorts, while this one runs on for eighty minutes.

After the mysterious Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) comes to the rescue of a pregnant stranger, he ends up delivering her baby in the midst of a shootout. When she is killed, our hero and baby flee with hitman Hertz (Paul Giamatti) hot on his heels. Enlisting hooker/mother/lover, Donna (Monica Belluci) to take care of the kid, Mr. Smith must get to the bottom of why this baby is a target, all while dodging Hertz’ hail of gunfire. Is there really a conspiracy, or just lots of faceless goons to mow down?

Shoot ‘Em Up doesn’t have much of a plot, but neither do the cartoons it tends to emulate. The first time we see Owen (Children of Men), he obnoxiously chomps on a carrot (his snack of choice), and even utters Bugs Bunny’s most famous one-liner. Giamatti (Lady in the Water) is obviously a bespectacled Yosemite Sam, complete with out of control goatee, and constant scenery chewing (“Guns don’t kill people--but they sure help!”). Digital animation is all over the place, coming in the form of bullet hits, spraying blood, shattering glass, and disturbing baby expressions. The only thing it lacks is the Warner Bros. logo.

Then there’s the action. There is gunplay in warehouses, between cars, in a gun factory, in mid-air, and most memorably, during sex. Bullets fly all over the place. Bad guys drop. Smith somehow survives. And eats more carrots. The orgy of violence is so pervasive, that it gets old pretty fast. With the exception of the sex scene, we feel like we’ve seen all this before. What saves it is the humor. We are so far over the edge that it becomes slapstick, and forces a silly grin on your face. It’s a parody of all those action movies that foolishly take themselves seriously.

Shoot ‘Em Up is kind of a guilty pleasure. While it’s “fun”, it’s also very adult in nature, and more than earns it’s R-rating. There is nudity and blood and profanity and some real twisted stuff. It’s kind of an exploitation movie with big stars and a sick sense of humor. If any of this is your bag, then you’ll feel right at home with Shoot ‘Em Up. Just shut off the logical lobe of your brain and remember that what your watching is a thinly veiled comedy. Bugs would like it.

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