Friday 1 February 2008

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

Friday 1 February 2008
Writer & Director: Michael Davis

Cast: Clive Owen (Mr Smith), Paul Giamatti (Hertz), Monica Bellucci (Donna Quintano), Stephanie McHattie (Hammerson), Ramona Pringle (Baby's Mother), Greg Bryk (Lone Man), Daniel Pilon (Senator Rutledge) & Stephen R. Hart (Club Bouncer)

A loner helps a pregnant woman give birth, then has to protect the infant from hordes of gunmen...

Clive Owen essentially reprises his Sin City character, albeit with his natural accent and Children Of Men attire, to headline British writer-director Michael Davis' zany/dumb Shoot 'Em Up. Owen plays Mr Smith, a laconic cipher who intervenes when a pregnant woman (Ramona Pringle) is attacked by gun toting bad guys in a warehouse.

During the first of many, many shoot 'em ups, Smith helps the anonymous woman give birth to her child, before she falls victim to their bullets – forcing him to hot-foot it with the infant. The rest of the film has Smith trying to work out why so many assassins (led by Paul Giamatti's Hertz) are so determined to kill an innocent baby; a mission that plays like an extended video-game, and ultimately reveals a modus operandi that's suitably daft...

But nobody's going to be watching for intricate plotting, or even realistic characters. Owen is your typical badass with a soft side -- once again protecting an important baby following Children Of Men – but here endowed with the killer instinct of John Woo muse Chow Yun Fat!

Smith is the irrepressible Bugs Bunny of this "Looney Tune" (hence his fondness for carrots...), while Paul Giamatti's Hertz is clearly the beleaguered Elmer Fudd (he even does an impression of the hapless bunny hunter...) Both men seem to be having fun playing live-action cartoons; particularly Giamatti, who gets the best lines and chews the scenery with grouchy aplomb.

Italian siren Monica Bellucci co-stars as a lactating prostitute (don't ask), although her voluptuous curves upstage her actual performance – as she generally looks lost and unsure what's going on. It's frustrating that Hollywood has yet to find Bellucci a decent English-language role; seemingly content to have her be simple eye-candy in extravaganzas like the Matrix sequels.

As much fun as Owen and Giamatti are, even they can't compete with the real star of Shoot 'Em Up: the shoot 'em ups. Davis' film is little more than a patchwork of insane action sequences, with Smith fending off dozens of bad guys at a playground, in an apartment block, during a car chase, in the middle of a bedroom romp with Bellucci, on a warehouse rooftop, and even during a parachute freefall!

All the stunts are very watchable, although you soon become desensitized to their initial sparkiness. It doesn't help that, because there's little sustenance between mayhem, the overall effect becomes slightly numbing, too. An exciting action scene is a great way to punctuate a film, but when it’s the only grammar being articulated... you begin to crave a more involving storyline in-between the shower of bullets.

Overall, this is a decent film for a lad's night in -- to be enjoyed with copious lager, a big pizza, and a short attention span. It's only 86-minutes long, and delivers what its title promises... but, beyond a few genuinely inventive/funny/crazy stunts and ideas, Shoot 'Em Up is like watching someone else play Max Payne on Playstation.

You can't fail to be amused and (sometimes) excited by the fireworks and stunts, but the intentional simplicity of it all makes it difficult to care about Smith and baby.

New Line Cinema
Budget: $40 million
86 minutes