Theatrical Review: Shoot 'Em Up

It’s the middle of the evening and a lone stranger is sitting on a street bench, munching on a carrot. A pregnant woman runs past him, clearly upset and in pain. A car comes into the scene and a deadly killer gets out clearly in pursuit of the woman. Our stranger, sees that it’s now his time to get involved, and what follows is a deadly chase involving a baby, a senator, a gun trader, a lactating hooker, and a whole bunch of hitmen.

And that’s the gist of Shoot ‘Em Up a new action movie from director Michael Davis, that is clearly a parody of action movies in general and a salute Looney Tunes, John Woo and Takashi Miike in particular. This is one of those movies that clearly divides it’s audiences, with most either wildly loving it or hating it. I enjoyed it, but think it has a few problems, but still thought it was a nice little ride.

One of the biggest complaints that most have about it is the common internet caveat “Where’s the plot?” Well the plot is there, it’s just buried under tons of over-the-top action and parody. I mean make no mistake, there is a story here, but this movie is clearly parody and as part of it’s parody, it buries it even moreso than traditional action films (that get the same complaint) do. There’s motivations for all of the characters, but again, like the plot, they’re at the service of the parody that’s centerpiece.

The action is fast and furious, and sometimes it’s cut a little too much like that. Michael Davis is very fond of the quick cut here, but then again as far as I’m concerned, that’s all part of the parody as well. But here, I think it works to the disadvantage of the film, mostly in the idea that with a few exceptions, you don’t necessarily get that clear a picture of all the action that is going on. Again, I think it’s part of the parody, but here it doesn’t quite translate as well as it should.

Davis has a killer cast at work. Clive Owen is Mr. Smith, our carrot munching stranger at the start, who’s one part stoic action hero and one part Bugs Bunny. Monica Belluci is the lactating hooker who’s here entirely as eye candy and I think she knows that full well (and if you’re gonna have eye candy in a movie, it really doesn’t get much better than Belluci). Paul Giamatti is Hertz, the leader of the hitmen, and he’s all wacky, being a sort of composite Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam, he, more than anyone else is clearly having the most fun in the film. I like Clive Owen, I really do, but his casting is something that I see as another problem in the film. For the type of parody this film is displaying, it almost seems that someone more like a Bruce Willis might’ve better served the part, or at least the Bugs Bunny side of it more.

In a lot of reviews, you’ll see mentions of Looney Tunes and John Woo, and as I mentioned above, I see the work of Japanese cult director Takashi Miike in here too, in particular, this film feels more like an American version of his action masterpiece Dead or Alive, with one of the final action bits here clearly being something that you could easily see Miike do. This is one of those things that wne this eventually comes out on DVD, I hope there’s a commentary from Michael Davis on the disk, because I’d love to hear if Miike was in fact an influence here.

And on DVD is probably where most people are going to see this film- We saw a 10:00 showing of this film last night and I have to say I was expecting a little bit of a turnout, nothing overwhelming, but at least a lot more than the seven or eight people that we had in total in our theatre. I liked it, but I do think it has a few problems, but if our audience was any indication, most probably won’t care if they see it or not.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

10. September 2007 by Darren Goodhart
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