Saturday, June 12, 2010

Shoot 'Em Up

Rarely do you know exactly how much you will like a movie within the first five minutes.  Sure, it occasionally happens, but it's still noteworthy.  Some people will undoubtedly love this movie, while just as many people will absolutely hate it.  Here's the acid test: about two or three minutes into the movie, Clive Owen's character stabs a man through the eye with a carrot, killing him; Owen's one-liner follow-up is "Eat your vegetables."  If that doesn't sound like the start to an amazing movie, there's the door.  See ya.

For the rest of us, Shoot 'Em Up delivers in almost every possible way.  I sometimes complain about movies that have all-encompassing titles that the films do not live up to.  Not here.  Shoot 'Em Up is exactly what you think it is, a very violent movie with very little plot or character development.  The deaths come in bunches, are violent, and are often creative.  Some might say that the movie is not realistic enough, that the movie often wanders into being just plain silly.  Well, here is a viral video that was used to tie into the film's promotion:

Do you really think the filmmakers care is their action movie is bordering on the ridiculous?

There is a plot to this movie, believe it or not.  Smith (Clive Owen) is sitting on a street bench when a pregnant woman runs by, sobbing.  She is followed by a gun-toting tough-looking guy, who says, "You're dead, bitch! [to Smith] What the hell you looking at?"  Smith doesn't get up to follow the woman so much as he gets up to punish the guy for annoying him.  Smith kills the man, but a larger group shows up immediately after, so Smith tries to protect himself and the pregnant woman, who has just gone into labor.  Smith manages to deliver the baby, kill six or eight bad guys, and severs the umbilical cord with a well-aimed gunshot.  More bad guys show up, and it begins again.  The new mother dies this time around, but Smith manages to keep the baby, kill some more guys, and escape.  Thinking logically, Smith goes to the only food source for the baby that he can think of.  Enfamil?  Similac?  You're getting closer...lactating prostitutes?  Bingo!  Smith imposes on DQ (a perfect character name for Monica Bellucci) to feed the baby while he figures out how to keep the baby from getting killed.  Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti) is the leader of the gun thugs, and he's a pretty smart guy, so he is able to keep finding Smith, DQ and the baby.  Repeat ad nauseum.

This is truly a stupid movie.  It's absolutely ridiculous.  There is no way around that.  Most action movies would try and boost the testosterone in the movie with tough-guy cliches and nonsensical one-liners (remember in Predator?  Hey Jesse Ventura, you're bleeding!  "I ain't got time to bleed."  Oh, okay...wait, what?) to try and show how serious they are, but this movie is more than happy to embrace the ridiculousness of the action and plot.  For instance, Smith has an ongoing conversation throughout the film, where he rants about what he hates (which is mostly everything).  Whatever it is that he hates, I promise you this...he will shoot it momentarily.  Guys with ponytails, people who slurp coffee, or whatever, they will all get a bullet from Smith.  The dialogue is chock full of goofy, filthy, and sometimes stupid lines. Hertz is the source for a lot of these, like when he asks why a gun is better than a wife --- because you can put a silencer on a gun!  Ba-DUM-bum.  There are a LOT of lines like that.  You would think that it would be irritating, but Giamatti and Owen deliver the lines with the perfect amount of conviction and timing; I found it hard not to react to even the most eye-roll worthy lines.

The acting is a little campy, but everyone is clearly having a good time.  Clive Owen is his typical charming self, despite the fact that Smith is not charming at all.  Giamatti gets to play a relatively tough guy in this film, which is a big change from his normal everyman roles.  I thought he did a very good job as the smart, wise-cracking boss.  Monica Bellucci is pretty solid here, able to deliver some good lines and act as the straight man to a lot of Smith's rants.  Sure, she's in the movie because the role demands a busty actress, but she is able to hold her own and (surprisingly and a little distractingly) avoids nudity.  The rest of the cast does a good job of getting in the way of bullets.

As for the direction, well...this is definitely the highest profile work that writer/director Michael Davis has done to date (although he did co-write Double Dragon, which ought to count for...absolutely nothing).  I am willing to give Davis the benefit of the doubt and give him substantial credit for the fact that this movie doesn't suck.  It really should be terrible, but it is just so over the top that even Nicholas Cage would say "That's a bit much."  The whole movie just has such a loose, fun feel to it that I have a hard time taking anyone who dislikes it seriously.

There is something to be said for movies that know exactly what they are.  This was never going to win a Best Picture Oscar; it's a fun, dumb, blow stuff up flick.  Shoot 'Em Up embraces that status and does almost everything right (some of those one-liners are bad, though) for the type of movie it is.

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