‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ movie review: Looney Tunes meets John Woo

NOW STREAMING ON:

Truth in advertising: Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘Em Up is perfectly summarized by its title, and anyone not wishing to see a ridiculous 90 minutes of gunplay and dead bodies will do best to avoid the film.

For everyone else, however, the film knows what it is and it works; it’s a mindless, over-the-top action film that delivers the mindless, over-the-top action, along with plenty of over-the-top wink-wink comedy. This is a live-action episode of Looney Tunes as directed by John Woo.

We open with a carrot- munching Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) sitting on a bench while a pregnant hooker is being accosted by a baddie; soon said carrot is through baddie’s skull and Smith finds himself delivering a baby in the middle of a gunfight, severing the umbilical cord with a bullet.

More of the same to follow, as the baby is sought by mysterious Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti), and Smith decides to protect it, coming to lactating hooker Donna Quintano (Monica Belluci) for food.

Trying to find out why all these guys are after the newborn brings Smith to a gun corporation and a dying Senator, but to be honest, I lost interest in the mechanics of the plot after a while.

What held my attention were the preposterous action scenes, all delivered in deadpan glory by Owen whether he’s playing guns like marionettes or crashing one car head-on into another, going through both windshields, ending up in the back of the other car, and quickly disposing of its occupants.

Owen and Giamatti are perfect in the film, fleshing out their characters with little more than mannerisms and cheesy B-movie one-liners. Bellucci, looking gorgeous, is more or less along for the ride.

The direction is unusually restrained, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not; had Davis gone even more over-the-top here, it might have been too far. But can I, for a moment, complain about the lack of action in the movie?

There are numerous – if brief – scenes of exposition focusing purely on plot, including some towards the end that attempt to give the story some twists; the movie seems obliged to tell us why we’re watching what we’re watching. Ultimately, I feel the plot was unnecessary in this film.

One day, they’ll make a movie that ignores all story and gives us one big action scene; one guy against another, and by the end we’ll never have learned the reasons why, or even which was the hero and which the villain. That movie, I eagerly await. 

Shoot 'Em Up

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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