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Shoot ‘Em Up

Once Again, the Carrot is Cool

We first got a taste of Clive Owen as an action star in the acclaimed Sin City. While not the primary focus of this film, Owen owned the screen with his undeniably gruff, masculine presence. No wonder Owen was rumored to be the next James Bond. While Daniel Craig was great in Casino Royale last year, it’s hard not to wonder what Owen could do as Bond after watching him kick (and shoot) a multitude of asses in Shoot Em’ Up.

Unlike Casino Royale, there’s no real espionage to speak of in Shoot ‘Em Up. Rather, you have a seemingly relentless onslaught of bullets, blood, carnage, and some of the most ridiculously creative action set pieces ever assembled. For those with a penchant for action flicks, you will barely be able to contain yourself as Clive Owen’s "Mr. Smith" runs rampant through innumerable cronies with every gun known to man and wields a carrot like you’re never seen.

But, there’s more to Shoot Em’ Up than spasmodic bullets and mayhem. Well, not much more. Writer/director Michael Davis deserves some credit for assembling a vague plot. Owen’s Mr. Smith is minding his own business chomping on a carrot when a pregnant woman runs by screaming with a gun wielding thug in hot pursuit. Smith feels compelled to stop said thug and quickly finds himself on the run from an army of thugs who are bound and determined to rub out the child of the mysterious pregnant woman. This is really all you need to know (not that there’s much more to know).

The "plot" is effectively irrelevant at the end of the day as the real driving force behind Shoot Em’ Up as is the ridiculous shooting sequences that raise the bar for any action film to follow this one. What you get visually is an amalgamation of The Matrix and Sin City. Everything is dirty, gritty, grimy, and otherwise corrupted in Mr.Smith’s world. This griminess is well complemented by the imaginative ‘shoot em’ up’ sequences that include some clever ‘bullet time’ moments and a dark sense of humor pervades every frame.

Clive Owen is the veritable personification of this dark grittiness as Mr. Smith. He’s the prototypical anti-hero who can shoot his mouth as well as his guns like no one else. Far from being suave and debonair, Smith is a brute, but a damn good one. If James Bond operated without a license to kill and was borne into a slum, he’d likely be Mr. Smith.

The appropriately named villain "Hertz" (who inflicts PLENTY of hurt) is played by Paul Giamatti. At first glance, Giamatti playing an immoral, gun toting villain seems like a bit of a stretch. But, Giamatti channels his inner scumbag like few actors can and manages to create a villain who is despicable, disgusting, and somehow a bit amusing at the end of the day. Once again, Giamatti’s breadth as an actor is on full display.

As a straight up action flick, it doesn’t get much better than Shoot Em’ Up. The film rivals John Woo’s best and is the cinematic equivalent of a first person shooter (wonder who the audience for this one is?). Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, it’s hard not to appreciate the creativity of the action sequences, kills, and quips that saturate this film. However, there’s really nothing else in Shoot Em’ Up to recommend at the end of the day. The characters are throwaways and the plot is scant at best. Still, it’s a hell of a fun ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars