On a dark city street, a pregnant woman is chased by gunman, who both run by Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) as he sits on a bench, munching a carrot. Smith begrudgingly gets himself involved in the situation, killing the gunman – then he’s forced to deliver the woman’s baby while fending off a huge crew of armed thugs led by Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti). During the shootout, the mom is killed but Smith escapes with the baby. With the help of his hooker friend Donna (Monica Bellucci), Smith tries to figure out why the woman was wanted by the henchmen – and why they want the baby dead as well.
Like the videogame genre it’s named after, writer/director Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘Em Up is a largely unrealistic yet awesomely trippy thrill-ride. All that’s missing is the first-person POV and the hand holding a gun in the lower corner.
The action sequences are almost too much to take in, but in a good way. (Kudos to the whiz-bang choreography of Peter Pau and editing by Peter Amundson.) You’ll laugh at the ridiculousness of each burst of action, but you’ll stay smiling afterwards because – admit it – it was also pretty awesome.
Shoot ‘Em Up does have its human moments. Smith’s traumatic backstory gives a rationale for his involvement, and the film will give any father a mix of emotions: The man inside you will eat up the action, yet your paternal instincts will feel for the baby (example: a tender scene where Smith takes off his sock to make a cap for the infant).
Other strong points: Giamatti is deliciously, charmingly scuzzy as head baddie Mr. Hertz (something tells me his first name is Dick). And the action scenes feature a high-speed soundtrack to match the mayhem, with songs by Nirvana, Motorhead, AC/DC, and Motley Crue.
In its easily digestible 86 minutes, Shoot ‘Em Up offers a dark, entertaining take on the classic Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd cartoons: riotous levels of chaos and mayhem, cheesy yet funny one-liners, and ingenious and outrageous ways out of no-escape scenarios. Make this a double-bill with 2008’s Rambo, and your craving for all-guns-blazing carnage will be satisfied for a long time to come.
Will your kids want to watch it?With its video-game style, fast action, and massive amounts of gunplay, it’s easy to see why Shoot ‘Em Up would attract kids (read: boys) of any age. But while the film does take its violence to an almost cartoonish level, it shouldn’t be viewed by children below high-school age:
* Countless shooting deaths (we’re talking dozens), dismemberment, torture, and several lethal uses of a carrot
* A newborn baby is in peril numerous times
* Some sexual, S&M, and fetish goings-on at a brothel, plus an explicit love scene between Owen and Bellucci that gives new meaning to coitus interruptus
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?If all the manly shooting and posturing in Shoot ‘Em Up isn’t enough to turn her off, see the aforementioned baby peril – the kid’s in danger of being shot, dropped, abandoned, or run over at different stages of the film. All signs point to you watching this alone or with buds.
Shoot ‘Em Up
* Director: Michael Davis
* Screenwriter: Michael Davis
* Stars: Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti, Stephen McHattie, Greg Bryk, Daniel Pilon
* MPAA Rating: R (pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality and some language)
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