There couldn't be a better title for this movie than Shoot 'Em Up because, well, that's what happens. It's loud. It's crass. And most of all, it's hilarious. This is the perfect film to see with your rowdiest girlfriends, possibly after a few martinis. There's tons of raunchiness, some sick humor and so much outrageous gunfire your ears will be ringing by the end. It's violence with a very healthy sense of humor. Yet what makes it all work is Clive Owen as Smith, our rough-and-tumble hero, a grumpy, low-income version of James Bond who was weaned on weapons and, apparently, carrots.
Indeed, carrots are a running gag throughout the film — Smith chomps on them when he needs to think, and creatively employs them as murder weapons, making him a kind of R-rated warrior version of Bugs Bunny. It's this kind of silliness that makes Shoot 'Em Up the perfect combination of high-energy, over-the-top violence and absurd humor. Simply put: it's pure entertainment. To find out more about why,
Chomping a carrot by himself one night, Smith observes a man with a gun pursuing a frightened pregnant woman. Smith reluctantly follows them, a gun fight ensues, Smith saves the woman long enough to help her give birth before she's shot. Smith realizes both the woman and baby were wanted by some evil folks, most notably the leery, sneery, slimy-in-every-corner-of-his-soul Hertz (Paul Giamatti). Smith brings the baby to a prostitute friend (Monica Bellucci, oozing sex and sympathy) who eventually agrees to help him save the child from all the evildoers. Plenty of chases, fighting, inventive gun play, sex and bloodshed follows, peppered with glib one-liners.
I had no idea how much of a parody this movie would turn out to be. It's so ridiculously over-the-top, you can't help but laugh. It almost feels wrong to be laughing at such darkly twisted things, but it's not that we find murder funny, it's that it's all so utterly absurd. However, the best thing about this wildly entertaining ride is that it's not a full-on spoof. There are certainly elements that remind me of movies like Hot Fuzz, its tongue so firmly planted in its cheek. Yet there's a streak of seriousness to Shoot 'Em Up that holds everything just anchored in reality enough to keep the audience riveted. And it's especially funny to watch the actors take it all so very seriously. I know many of you will go for the Clive Owen, so it'll be a pleasant surprise to find that it's a hugely funny, bloody movie to boot.
Photos courtesy of New Line Cinema