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Shoot 'Em Up

The excessive but wonderfully creative bloodlust in Shoot 'Em Up takes glorified violence to a new level. Let's just say the film lives up to its title.


Oh, boy, does it ever! From the opening sequence, in which Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) inadvertently helps an ultimately doomed woman deliver her baby amid a hail of bullets and then severs the umbilical chord by shooting it, you get a pretty clear picture of what you're in for here. Smith may be the "angriest man in the world," but he's also a fairly chivalrous one. Once he has the little tyke in his possession, he has no other choice but to protect it from an endless stream of assailants--led by the sadistic Hertz (Paul Giamatti)--engaging in every conceivable permutation of gunfight. Smith even teams up with a prostitute (Monica Bellucci) whose specialty is catering to those men with a fetish for suckling on lactating breasts. She proves very useful in this scenario. Question is, why does everyone want this baby dead? Trust me, the explanation is stupid and superfluous; it's the 80-minute shooting gallery that makes this actioner fly.


Even though Clive Owen is absolutely spot-on as the hardboiled antihero Mr. Smith, the actor must be able to do it in his sleep by now, having basically played the same role in films such as Inside Man and Children of Men. And along with Children of Men, he's now pretty good at assisting a woman in childbirth, too. Still, we love it when he shoots a gun. Giamatti is the one who goes out on a limb in Shoot 'Em Up. When casting a cold-blooded vicious killer, the sweet sad sack from Sideways isn't your immediate image. Ah, but that's what makes Giamatti such a consummate actor. Flashing a Cheshire cat-like grin and armed with an arsenal of one-liners, he doesn't downplay his nerdy appearance but rather relishes it, playing Hertz as far over the top as he can possibly get without looking completely ridiculous—which allows him to say things like, "Well, f**k me sideways," with a straight face. Giamatti is a real treat. Bellucci, on the other hand, is fairly wasted. She's obviously there to add a feminine touch--being able to feed the baby and all—as well as have raucous sex with our leading man. But her character doesn't really add anything else to the proceedings.


Writer/director Michael Davis really hasn't had his shot (pun intended) yet. Moving up from the B-movies (anyone heard of Monster Man or Girl Fever?), Davis finally gets to show some of his stuff with Shoot 'Em Up. Obviously influenced by the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantinos of the filmmaking world, Davis crafts a thrilling, action-packed film, shot in that gritty style so popular these days. Besides all the gunplay, Davis also incorporates a few other creative ways of offing people, such as shoving a carrot (something Mr. Smith is fond of eating) into someone's eye. And, well, a lactating prostitute is just pure genius. Still, it's all about guns, which rule supreme, as well they should with such a titular title. The four or five gun battles get more spectacular, culminating with an aerial shootout after jumping out of an airplane with parachutes. Shoot 'Em Up, however, could have used a rewrite by Mr. Tarantino. Sure, the purpose of this movie is to show as many guns being shot off in as many ways as possible, but a plausible story would have been nice, too. Oh well.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.