'Shoot 'Em Up' Misfires With a Hollow Point
It sets a tone, all right. A lot of gamers (sorry, "filmgoers") may well enjoy writer-director Michael Davis' ultraviolent lark. It's not meant to be taken seriously. But films like this are worth taking seriously because they're genuinely cruddy and hollow and, yes, vile, and if they're big hits (DVD is this one's metier; the theatrical release is strictly a formality), then we will get more of them.
While "Shoot 'Em Up" exists in a stylized realm separate from torture-porn or gorno or whatever you prefer to call items like "Hostel: Part II," they impart a similar numbness. Davis, who has made a few direct-to-DVD pulpers before this project, gets busy with the Novocain straight off. Mr. Smith, played (or, more accurately, modeled) by Owen, sits at a bus stop at night in an unnamed urban location, looking like a trouble magnet. A pregnant woman rushes by, pursued by an assassin.
And there's your plot: After a deliberate munch on his ever-present carrot, Smith takes care of business and delivers the woman's baby while dispatching one killer after another, and then shooting the umbilical cord in half. In an unrelated incident the woman is killed. The baby becomes Smith's to protect. He takes the infant to a brothel where his lactating ex-lover (Monica Belluci) services fetishists who do not need the milk as much as Junior does. (Really, this thing is pretty rank.)
Mugging hard and purring like a puma, Paul Giamatti plays the antagonist with a big gun and wisecracks even weaker than Owen's. "Shoot 'Em Up" may ape the Elmer Fudd/Bugs Bunny dynamic of pursuit and evasion, but the film can't get off with the excuse that it's a live-action cartoon. Not with Giamatti feeling up naked corpses. The rest of the plot, not that Davis himself even cares, has to do with a dastardly Democratic presidential candidate (Daniel Pilon) harvesting bone marrow from surrogate newborns. Terrific combination: "yuk" married to "huh?"
Along with Bugs and Elmer Fudd, the John Woo School of Newborn Endangerment serves as a major inspiration to "Shoot 'Em Up." The joke is simple: How much insane peril and deafening gunfire can one baby endure? Such was the idea behind the hospital rescue-and-slaughter operation in the Woo film "Hard-Boiled," in which Chow Yun-Fat bent time, space, motion and logic to his will while mowing down villains and lugging a maternity ward refugee. The difference between a stylish, artfully choreographed and very violent fairy tale such as "Hard-Boiled" and a witless, hyperactive bash like "Shoot 'Em Up" goes far beyond which country they come from, or who's doing the stone-faced stone-cold killer act. Woo has skill, and an eye, and knows how far beyond "too far" to go. Davis hasn't begun to figure it out.
Get showtimes and movie details for "Shoot 'Em Up."