Ever been hit with a bullet? Probably not, but think of what it’s like. Bullets are not sharp. Theyre sort of dull, and feel like rocks when they hit – only they impact with such speed and force that they tear through flesh, shatter bones and puncture organs. The sudden pain and overwhelming power being hit by one can be enough to knock the meanest of men off their feet. Nevermind shotguns! (Just look at what happened to Miguelito’s neighbor who lived down the hall, when Wooly got a hold of him in Dawn of the Dead).
Now take a newborn baby, fresh from mommas womb, whose skin is so virgin and soft it smells cleaner than the air itself. So delicate, what could be more innocent? In Shoot ‘Em Up, director Michael Davis exposes “baby” to “bullets” in extremely aggresive fashion, and its up to Clive Owen to tuck that little football under his arm and make a miracle run to the endzone. Its a pulp fiction paperback gone amok, and all the pieces fall into the right places for an outstanding, enjoyable 90 minutes at the movies.
Shoot ‘Em Up stars Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci, and is directed by Michael Davis. Davis makes a huge leap, from the straight-to-DVD mediocrity of Monster Man, to what may end up being acclaimed as the sleeper hit of the summer, as the buzz coming out of the preview was electrified. Much like Crank (2006), Shoot ‘Em Up combines adrenaline with edge-of-your-seat, over-the-top, near comic book type action, which equates to a ride worth your money in the theater. Monster Man is nothing like Shoot ‘Em Up. Shoot ‘Em Up is an evolution of Michael Davis – from working film school graduate ape into John Woo like sapienage.
The premise is simple, and near victimized this film’s initial chances of being picked up by New Line. Your basic, loner machismo Clive Owen is walking down the street one day when suddenly a pregnant woman about to give birth is being chased down by hitmen looking to make their kill. Offended by this, Mr. Smith (Owen) takes it upon himself to protect her (because you know, its not cool to off a pregnant woman and her baby) and ends up delivering the child amidst a wild shootout. Its an action sequence that just picks you up off the street and tosses you into an absorbing absurdity that highlights whats best about action sequences on the big screen.
Mom dies, and with a finely aimed bullet, the umbilical cord is severed. Then its, hut… hut… hike! – as the little guy is tucked neatly under his arm and scrambled throughout the film. As if James Bond were a running back in the NFL, it’s a sprint for the endzone through a barrage of bullets reminiscent of the gritty 1970’s action films that starred Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen, but polished like a modern digitalized summer gem. Shoot ‘Em Up is not perfect, and crosses the line a bit with those who look to good films for a bit of reality to ground them. You cant sit there and relate realistically, thinking, “What would I do if that was me?” Its more like, “Yeah, right,” muttered alongside an escaped chuckle, with a subsequent “wow” whispered under your breath.
Hitman after hitman go down as Mr. Smith, no apparent stranger to battle or the television show MacGuyver, comes up with ways of getting out of situations you would otherwise think impossible. The wit is sharp, and keeps the dialogue well lubricated, where other action films tend to get dry and slow. Giamatti is married, and realistically gets calls from his wife at cinematically inappropriate moments, such as when he is raising his pistol to someone’s head. Its even environmentally friendly at times, as Smith even uses the carrot hes nibbling on to pop a couple eyeballs. I wasn’t a huge fan of Clive Owen (or the way the media portrayed him to be) going into this, but Shoot ‘Em Up really brought out the best qualities he has to offer on screen. This film was a surprising good time, top to bottom, start to finish.
Final Analysis: Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘Em Up stood proud amid a critical army of sniper-like writers on a headhunt for imperfections – emerging nearly unflawed and creating a noticeable buzz that can be overheard amongst those exiting the theater. The acting and chemistry between over-masculine Owen and ultra feminine Bellucci is finely accentuated by one of the most underrated actors on the screen today, Paul Giamatti, who is the fine bottle of wine on this otherwise familiar spead of cheese and crackers. Bullets are a constantly dependable cinema hair-raiser, but the tension in Shoot ‘Em Up is amped even further with most of them whizzing by a newborn baby. This, plus the stylish direction of Davis and adrenalized action sequences that just take off from the get-go will have you on the edge of your seat for a solid portion of the film. Blood and injury fiends will get 100% of their recommended daily allowance of bulletwounds, even if not quite as juicy as Charles Cypher’s back in Carpenter’s Assault of Precinct 13 – you can still consider this a cool cousin to the horror genre interests. Fans of Assault, Crank, and the like – don’t hesitate to fire if your movie going interest is cocked and aimed toward this in September. Shoot ‘Em Up is a definite bullseye.