Directed by: Michael Davis
Written by: Michael Davis
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci and Stephen McHattie
Runtime: 86 minutes
Release Date: September 07, 2007
A disheveled man sits at a bus stop eating a carrot. A pregnant woman runs behind him, then ducks down an alley just before a car careens around the corner and crashes into a parked automobile. The driver struggles out of the vehicle, draws a gun and pursues the woman. Our hero, the unassuming Smith (Owen), decides to help the fleeing woman. Apparently, it’s the right thing to do.
Smith catches up to the pair, dispatching the pursuer with a carrot punched through the back of the man’s throat. More gunmen appear, just as the woman goes into labor, necessitating Smith to pick up a pistol and hold the armed men at bay while helping to deliver a baby under relentless gunfire. Smith doesn’t miss, ever – not even while using his pistol to cut the umbilical cord of the new arrival. The head villain and aspiring hitman Hertz (Giamatti) arrives on the scene to lead his men, delivering a semi-intellectual soliloquy once he has a chance to confront Smith and the new mother. Hertz is a sociopath who enjoys the hunt and inflicting violence.
After quite a bit of gunplay, the death of the mother, and a narrow escape, Smith flees with the now hungry newborn. What’s a guy to do? Smith shows up at an old church. His knock on the door is answered by a nun. Upon bursting through the door, Smith demands to see Donna Quintano (Bellucci). The nun turns to chase after Smith, revealing the back of her habit and her exposed, naked bottom. Furthermore, Qunitano is revealed to be a lactating dominatrix with whom Smith attempts to bribe, coerce and guilt into feeding the newborn. The bad guys, of course, aren’t that far behind and our hero will need to figure out why and how to deal with them . . .
This setup is established in the first 10 minutes of SHOOT ‘EM UP. It’s the barebones framework for a movie dense on detail and chockfull of thrilling action sequences. There are many sight gags, peppering much of the action and filling in the quieter moments. The film strives to be absolutely outrageous and almost always succeeds, eschewing realism for a very consistent self-contained and mature cartoon universe. Putting a newborn in harm’s way, imperiling a pregnant women, lactating prostitutes, subversion of the church’s image, an orgy of constant bloody violence, an onslaught of fetishes, and more push the boundaries of good taste while poking fun at traditionally taboo elements of our society. To top it off, there’s a very strong Bugs Bunny vibe as Smith constantly gnaws on carrots (they’re good for your eyes) and Hertz is hunting his prey in a fashion that clearly places him in the role of Elmer Fudd. The two exchange plenty of dialog, much the way their animated counterparts do in the classic Warner Brothers shorts.
Clive Owen demonstrates his ability once again to provide a charismatic lead while walking in the shoes of an action hero, extending the momentum he established in films like KING ARTHUR (2004), SIN CITY (2005), and CHILDREN OF MEN (2006). Paul Giamatti turns up the volume to an eleven, delivering an over-the-top performance that hits just the right notes, conveying an evil heavy who is brilliant, brimming with ego, and a complete social misfit that’s still a considerate family man who can’t quite reach the brass ring to declare full victory. Monica Bellucci also turns in a good, if limited performance. She’s not given the best material to work with, but her accented line delivery, commitment to the role, and game attitude in selling the crazier elements of the film help provide the additional support necessary to solidly anchor SHOOT ‘EM UP’s more off-kilter elements. Bellucci is always visually captivating on screen and that holds true throughout this film as well.
As mentioned earlier in this review, there’s a complex story wrapped around the basic framework of plot with lots of details filling in behind the main plot thread to give purpose to our protagonists as well as provide a little social commentary. It gives context to much of the violence and takes jabs at some hot topics regarding guns, violence and politics. While not deep or original, these elements pad the overall package making the film’s relatively short 86 minute runtime seem a little bloated.
SHOOT ‘EM UP is a fun, kinetic and hyperactive cartoon that punches buttons and plays with edgier concepts that skirt many social norms. It’s willingness to be outrageous is not only infectious, but a gift for genre and exploitation fans. If you have yet to discover this well-crafted and soundly acted action film, seek it out and discover the pleasures of a movie that seeks to entertain its audience with every moment delivered on the screen.
Contributed by Drew Beckmann