a critiQal film review Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: A mysterious loner named Mr. Smith (Owen) teams up with an unlikely ally (Belluci) to protect a newborn baby from a determined criminal (Giamatti) who hunts them throughout the bowels of the city.

901 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 30s)

When I originally heard about Shoot ‘Em Up, I had a couple of thoughts. First – Paul Giamatti as a bad guy? I don’t see it. Second – are they starting to run out of names for action films, or what? Still, I figured I’d check it out because of Clive Owen (, ) and Monica Belucci (, ).

Since I had hesitations, however, I decided to wait until it hit DVD. That day arrived on New Year’s Day, and, since I had recently moved it to the top of my queue, I had it within a couple of weeks. But, would my reservations turn out to be justified, and I was wasting an hour and a half plus of my time, or had I gotten the wrong impression about Shoot ‘Em Up?

Clive Owen, who impressed viewers with his performances in and (and even managed to do a decent job in – despite having ex-“Friend” Jennifer Anniston as a co-star), does a good job of keeping viewers entertained in Shoot ‘Em Up. While his character is a typical action hero, complete with mysterious military-trained background, his antics make him worthy of the screen time.

Paul Giamatti, not anyone’s first choice for a bad guy, does a good job with his role here (thanks in part to the actual basis behind the film – see below), and does a good job of bantering back and forth with Owen’s heroic character. The banter makes the fight more personal between the two of them, and really adds an extra element to the film.

Monica Belluci, who basically dropped out of sight after her two strikingly different, yet equally compelling roles in 2004 (Persephone in ; Mary Magdalene in ), pops up again for Shoot ‘Em Up, portraying, of all things, a hooker. Her role is mainly to provide the baby with what it needs, and to provide the crucial love interest for the hero. She does a decent job, and, as is typical of action flick women, looks great under her clothes. A good body and a better-than-nothing performance is all that’s needed, and she is able to deliver both.

While Shoot ‘Em Up played in the previews as just another over-the-top action flick, in reality it presents itself as an over-the-top action flick aimed at making fun of over-the-top action flicks. It’s a parody, in other words, and done much better than anything since Airplane. It’s full of sequences so overboard that viewers are unsure whether to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all or groan. Thankfully, the movie gives little clues that it’s supposed to be a parody. One prime example of this: during one crazy action sequence, Owen’s character engages in a shoot-out with multiple enemies while in the midst of a skydiving plummet from a plane. The shoot-out ends (with only Owen’s character surviving)…and the next scene shows him picking his way through the bodies of his enemies, now splayed across his path on the ground.

It’s scenes like that – plus it’s constant references to the classic Elmer Fudd (a perfectly cast Giamatti) / Bugs Bunny (Owen, complete with a love of carrots) cartoon struggle that’s been raging for decades – that propels Shoot ‘Em Up from just another over-the-top action flick into the bizarre and zany realm of parody…and this is only scratching the surface in terms of the references that abound in this film – all of which are upped to the nth degree.

Even the baby plays into the parody theme, as most shots of the baby during the multitude of action sequences proudly display the little tyke as nothing more than an obvious doll, complete with taped cries – even to the extent that one sequence reveals the baby to be a doll, much to Fudd’s – er, sorry, Giamatti’s – chagrin. These aren’t the fault of the special effects, as the bullets-flying action-filled sequences are full of special effects done right – instead, these are intentional, and wildly hilarious (especially considering the fact that these scenes almost directly parody Owen’s last big hit, ).

If the viewer were to walk into this film thinking they were in for just another action flick, they may end up disappointed, as the film is so over-the-top, it makes Vin Diesel’s look realistic. But, if they start picking up on the film’s tongue-in-cheek portrayal of it’s characters, they may spot Shoot ‘Em Up for what it is – one of the most entertaining parodies to come along in recent memory.

With the ridiculous abundance of over-the-top action films (pretty much anything that stars Vin Diesel in a “hero” role, for example), it’s no wonder many action fans have walked away from this film disappointed. People are so used to seeing over-the-top action flicks that they don’t even question if the film is trying to be serious, and shrug off the above-mentioned references as nothing more than coincidence.

Shake off the doldrums of bad action films, and revel in the humor that abounds in Shoot ‘Em Up. Then, when you’ve gotten to the end of the film, go back and look for the references you missed – and how the film expounded on those references to the umpteenth degree – and then see if you still think this one is just another bad action flick.

After that, there’s a good chance you’ll be singing the praises of Shoot ‘Em Up just like we are.

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