Shoot ‘Em Up!

shoot-em-up-clive-owenFilmmakers are always striving. Whether it is for authenticity, the ultimate laugh or the biggest heartache the films are usually curtailed by the need to keep it real. What if they did not need to? A film that takes it all the way and really sets out by saying F*** It! Let’s just see how far we can actually go with this. The logical genre for such a film is in action and adventure. One film that turns it up to eleven is the 2007 film Shoot ‘Em Up.

In an un-named city Mr Smith (Clive Owen) is sitting minding his own business and eating a carrot. A pregnant woman stumbles past with a gun-toting thug in hot pursuit. Against his initial thoughts to leave it alone he goes to the rescue of the woman. As he deals with the thug the woman enters into labour. At the same time, associates of the now dead thug turn up. A fierce gun battle ensues as Mr Smith delivers the baby. The woman doesn’t survive too long and Mr Smith is literally left holding on to the baby. With head henchman Hertz (Paul Giamatti) in pursuit, Smith is forced to figure out who is after him and why they want a baby dead.

This is a film that doesn’t take itself very seriously at all. The opening sequence is totally spectacular. The full on gun, fist and carrot fight is jaw dropping. The scene is well thought out and the choreography keeps the momentum going while telling you exactly what is going on. It is just like a set piece at the conclusion of a film rather than the opening. So where can they go from there? The answer is to take the set pieces beyond  reality by some way. It works  well.

shoot-em-up-monica-bellucci-paul-giamattiThere is no way that the film has a message other than this is a film that should be enjoyed. It is just like a loony tunes cartoon made into a live action film. Mr Smith eats carrots and wise cracks like Bugs Bunny. Hertz is the living embodiment of Elmer Fudd. He as the same hang-dog expression. He quotes lines from the famous rabbit hunter and his ringtone is Ride of the Valkyries as used in the cartoon What’s Opera Doc?

The principal cast definitely plays it for laughs while keeping a straight face. Clive Owen in the role of Mr Smith has some of the choice lines of dialogue which he is clearly enjoying. He throws himself into the role both in terms of his acting performance and the physical nature of the role. He is expected to take the lead in a lot of the action beats and acquits himself admirably. He comes across as a man who is willfully detached from society for a reason that is never expanded on.

The support cast, principally Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci, are able to lift their characters above the stereotypes they could so easily have been. They achieve this in a very simple way. They just go with it and do not take their characters too seriously. That is not to say their performances are below par.They are having fun and basically just taking their portrayals to the limit and beyond.

Overall a hugely enjoyable action film that never takes itself seriously. Highly recommended.

John McArthur
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