“Guns Guns Guns!”– Kurtwood Smith, Robocop (1987)
Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to begin this review than with that quote. Quite simply. that’s what this entire film is about; firearms galore and the men who shoot them. To save you a lot of time, dearest babies, this is going to be an out and out rave. I love love LOVED this movie. It’s most movie fun I’ve had all year perhaps since 300.
The absolutely unnecessary plot goes like this: Clive Owen is sitting at a bus stop eating a carrot. A pregnant woman waddles hurriedly by in deep labour. Said woman is being hotly pursued by gun-wielding thugs. Clearly, Clive has never gotten over the failure of 2004’s King Arthur at the box office, and allows his chivalric instincts to intercede on behalf of the mommy-to-be-in-distress. He uses any and all resources at hand to foil the would-be mummy murderer and the 2 dozen odd backup hitmen all sent to put an end to the young lady and her new baby boy. Once Clive’s Mr. Smith gets a gun into his mitts it’s all over. Turns out Mr. Smith is a pretty fair shot, as about 3 billion unfortunates will discover throughout the course of the film. Mr. Smith lets his unfortunate kind streak get the better of him and he ends up fiercely protecting the little nipper he helped bring into the world, recruiting the help of a lactating hooker, called DQ (- geddit?) Together, they do their best to stay alive whilst getting to the bottom of why eeevil genius Hertz and many others want the tiny feller dead.
Whatever. This movie is the most fabulous collection of action sequences I’ve seen in many an age (- and your MG’s been around a loooong time, chitlin’s). Shoot ‘Em Up is the purest comic-book movie I’ve ever wtinessed, though it’s not based on a comic. Don’t take it lightly when I tell you that Shoot Em Up had the coolest scenes of gunplay since the heady days of Hard Boiled, or A Better Tomorrow. One of the strongest things about Shoot ‘Em Up was the excellent cinematography and camera placement. It rang back to my love of the Hong Kong actioner because the shot setups were so pure and simple; just show us what’s going on. No confusing quick cuts, no overdoses of jumpy art-student-on-crack handheld shots. Glory be. There is wonderful choreography created for this film, a gun ballet nearly on par with John Woo in his prime and director of photography simply let it shine. The sets and art direction are minimal and spacious, giving the actors and stuntmen plenty of room to play. Even the most unlikely and silly scenarios – yes, I mean the longest and most homicidal airborne free fall in history – go down a treat because of the heightened sense of fun and joyful nihilism pervading the flick. Shoot ‘Em Up knows exactly what it is and lets its freak flag fly. It’s the best Hong Kong film ever made in the US. No surprise then, that Shoot ‘Em Up’s cinematographer is one Peter Pau, whose credits include The Killer (- yes, the John Woo one), The Promise, The Bride with White Hair, and a little cult classic called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The three main stars are just great and seem to be having a great time. Paul Giamatti uses his twitchy, weaselly looks to perfect measure as the twisted hitman / henpecked husband, Hertz. Monica Bellucci as DQ is dragged into schemes way beyond her simple, sad existence. Thought I could only understand about half of anything she said in English, I enjoyed her casting. Bellucci, blessedly not being the springiest chicken in Hollywood, is able to give us a ripe, lush sexuality that was a perfect match to Clive Owen’s touch of gray, well-worn rough trade. She holds her own in their wild sex scene and Bellucci’s worldliness makes DQ’s practicality and tenderness believable. Clive Owen’s performance in Shoot ‘Em Up brought me to mind of a big F.U. to the James Bond franchise. Clive was a front-runner for the role before Daniel Craig was chosen. Mr. Smith is every bit the unflappable, unsinkable Brit, complete with puns and one-liners, but he’s so raw and feral he’s almost like Bond’s id. Mr. Smith gets dirty, Mr. Smith gets hurt and stays hurt, he’s as far from suave as can be and he still gets the (lactating) girl. There’s no attempt to smooth talk his way out of situations; have gun, will travel. Besides his preternatural way with a pistol, the intriguing thing about Mr. Smith is that he’s an innately decent cat. His reluctant initial involvement protecting the pregnant mother and his resolve to keep the baby safe, come from a good heart. Divine Benevolence aside, I would’ve simply dropped that kid off at the nearest foundling home if I got my trunk through all that gun fire in one piece. It’s Mr. Smith’s antiheroism that keeps us connected with more than how well he handles a gun. Although his dialogue is minimal and his facial expressions range from A to nearly-B, Owen’s eyes give away enough to let you feel that even though he comes out on top in the most impossible - and improbable - situations, he doesn’t believe he’s some sort of indestructible Superman.
Much uppage to writer/director Michael Davis for capping off the summer with a last gasp of fun.
~ Mighty Ganesha
Sept. 7th, 2007
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