Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)

(In theaters, September 2007) Both wonderful and reprehensible, this newest entry in the “fast and furious cheap action movie” sub-genre (after Running Scared, Crank and Smokin’ Aces) is the kind of film I hope Decency Leagues never discover. The first few minutes set the tone, with barely thirty seconds before the first car crash and ninety before the first gunshots. A pregnant woman is involved, after which a baby becomes the bouncing ball around which the carnage of the film takes place. The very definition of a guilty pleasure, Shoot ‘Em Up will simply be unbearable for many, yet compulsively hilarious for others. Clive Owen looks fantastic as the laconic hero of the piece, a man with infallible shooting skills and a bulletproof aura. But Monica Bellucci has the naughty darkness required to play a milkmaid prostitute (!) and Paul Giamatti is a scenery-chomping delight as a villain who, for a change, is just as smart as the hero. Seeing the body-count whir up steadily during a series of delirious action set-pieces, it’s hard not to feel ashamed and dirtied about the experience. But Shoot ‘Em Up never takes itself seriously as it piles up preposterousness over ludicrousness in an effort to top just about every standard for bad taste. But at the same time, it’s deliriously fun as a nervy action thriller. No, the plot doesn’t add up and there’s far too little nudity given the excesses of the film in matters of violence. But it’s meant to be enjoyed, not analyzed. (Whatever symbolism it features has the subtlety of a 2×4, and you’ll groan at the one-liners.) While not quite up to Hard-Boiled‘s standards (too quick, too close, too jokey), it’s certainly one of the most unapologetic pure action films in a while. If it makes you feel any better, let me assure you that the baby and the hooker make it to the end of the picture completely intact and unharmed. Trust me: you’ll appreciate the spoiler once the action gets going and Clive Owen starts sliding through the air in slow-motion, mowing down villains with one hand while clutching a baby with the other. It doesn’t have one death-by-carrot: It has two of them. It’s that kind of film, and I almost hate myself for loving it.

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