I’m going to start my review for the new action-fest Shoot ‘Em Up a little bit differently, but I think you’ll enjoy it. Although I try to steer clear from reading critical impressions on films before I see them, I couldn’t help but notice the way Roger Ebert opened his. After experiencing the film for myself, I absolutely feel that reading the following paragraph alone tells you everything you need to know about the movie going in, and will undoubtedly be just about everything you’ll know leaving the theater. Here’s that quote, reproduced in whole:
“I don’t need a lot of research to be confident in stating that never before have I seen a movie open with the hero delivering a baby during a gun battle, severing the umbilical cord with a gunshot, and then killing a villain by penetrating his brain with a raw carrot. Yes, a carrot will do that in this movie. It will do a lot of things.” (source)
Nothing I say can so eloquently sum up the new homage/spoof/nod to the stellar and mindless action flick popularized by such gems as John Woo’s Hard Boiled and its countless imitators, as with most flicks of this caliber, a direct viewing is necessary to fully appreciate the visceral imagery and artistic wham-bam such a thing truly deserves. A thinly carved out plot involving the mysterious Smith (Clive Owen), the self-described very dangerous British nanny, his super-hot hooker with a infant fetish, and a twisted scheme to change the political landscape take a welcome back-seat the acrobatic gunplay and incredibly violent (and blessedly so) handiwork of its main stars.
Things blow up, people blow up, and it’s all in good fun as our main hero munches down a few carrots. It might not make that much sense, but that’s part of the charm in a film that gets it biggest laughs from dismemberments. Although the end result may end up a closer relative to the Transporter series than John Woo’s bullet masterpieces, that doesn’t stop this one from being tons of fun and a definite crowd please…as long as its the right type of crowd.
Clive Owen does a spectacular job at convincing the world that (reportedly) refusing the 007 role was the best thing for everyone, as he’s able to pull off the same action feats, chases, and women without the baggage of a 20+ film franchise. His mysterious Smith plays it completely straight, even when things go way past crazy and into cartoon la-la land. He basically plays the role recently popularized by fellow Brit Jason Statham, only a bit more flustered. He’s truly one of our most gifted, versatile actors and it’s great to see him lighten things up a little.
Paul Giamatti is a hoot, overplaying a character that’s got to be loads more fun than the typical Oscar-bait he’s been trolling in lately. He’s such a fun character actor, I always wonder why we don’t see him in more roles like this. He’s the perfect ham sandwich to Owen’s Bugs Bunny, which I promise will make much more sense once you’ve seen the thing. Monica Belluci plays the hooker role like I’ve never really seen it played before. Although the baby motif might be a little much for some people, in a film where logic means very little it’s the closest thing you’re going to get to family values.
It’s also worth mentioning that director Davis was also partially responsible for the 1994 cinematic travesty Double Dragon, which took a perfectly good video game and spit all over it. Although he wasn’t in the driver’s seat for that mess, his double-duty here as both screenwriter and director totally redeems himself and maybe earns him an extra few credits to boot. For some added fun, stay for the closing credits, which are a great nod to the stylized James Bond openers. While I doubt that Clive Owen’s creative uses for a certain vegetable will inspire a rash of copycat carrot atrocities, I’m pretty sure that Shoot ‘Em Up has already earned it’s place in the seedy cult of films that the mainstream will never truly understand, and thankfully so.