By Vic Holtreman
Short version: A wild, crazy ride that knows what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything other than an insane, yes - shoot 'em up.
Shoot 'em Up is an unabashed action-fantasy movie from director Michael Davis. His goal was to make something that was action unleashed on the screen, and as far as I'm concerned he accomplished it. In spades.
Clive Owen plays "Mr. Smith", a carrot-chewing bystander of an attempted murder of a pregnant woman, who turns out to be, well... formidable would be too subtle a word to describe him as the hero of the film. From the first scene it's obvious that this will be a highly stylized movie, with an extreme close up of Owen that pulls back to reveal him chomping on a carrot. It seems that carrots are his snack of choice (with blatant Bugs Bunny references later on) as well as an impromptu weapon. Something I must admit I hadn't seen before. Not just once, Owen uses a carrot as a lethal weapon in the film, to the effect of much humor.
There's really not a whole heck of a lot to the plot, it's basically just a device to allow one insanely over the top action sequence after another.
He rescues the infant (actually, he delivers the baby first - in the middle of a gun battle) and then proceeds to find someone to at least temporarily care for and feed it, eventually settling on a lactating hooker (played by Monica Belluci). From this point on all three of them are on the run from a gang led by the super fun to watch Paul Giamatti as the villain. Giamatti plays a villain who fancies himself as super-intelligent (and he IS quite smart), cool and collected, and he is repeatedly taking calls from his wife via cell phone, who is apparently clueless that he is an assassin.
Owen brings his quiet intensity to the role as a guy who is unstoppable in a fire fight and is apparently mad at the world. In a way he reminded me of the Michael Douglas character in Falling Down who just went over the edge when confronted with daily annoyances (drivers changing lanes without signaling, people who slurp their coffee, etc.). Monica Belluci plays a nice supporting role in the film and becomes less of a caricature as the story moves along.
But what this movie is really about is action. Action and bullets. Action and bullets and ridiculous stunts. These it delivers in spades, eliciting cheers and laughs from the audience at the screening I attended throughout the course of the film. I really don't want to spoil the fun, but you need to know that this movie is rated R for a damned good reason. I'm pretty sure I haven't ever seen a film with the body count this one has.
Even within the context of this movie there were at least a couple of sequences that were SO over the top that they made me roll my eyes. One sequence in particular has the car Owen is driving in a head on collision with a van. You won't believe how he survives it. On the other hand I don't think I've ever seen a skydiving gunfight, or carrots used in such a violent manner. :-)
While Shoot 'em Up won't appeal to everyone, I thinks folks who are into action films will see it and say that it's what Live Free and Die Hard should have been. For those people lamenting the fact that Die Hard 4.0 didn't get an R rating, cheer up, Shoot 'em Up will make up for it.