There are those evenings that you’re looking for that textbook drama that brings you damn near to tears. Or maybe you want to watch a horror flick so perfectly crafted it leaves you freaked out for days after watching it. And sometimes you just need a laugh so big your gut hurts, so you find a great comedy.
Shoot ‘Em Up is none of these things.
This pure action film is the story of…well, we never officially find out who he is. All we know is that they call him Smith and the back story the bad guys progressively give us on him might be true. And he really, really likes carrots.
What we do know is that Clive Owen plays a man who has obviously been well trained in the killing arts, primarily as a marksman. As he sits on a bus bench, a pregnant woman in the midst of labour hobbles by, being chased by idiots with guns. Clive looks annoyed, gets involved and everything goes downhill from there as he gets embroiled in a massive conspiracy. Naturally.
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Without going into details that would spoil the loosely cobbled together story for you, the plot that follows from the bus bench interaction makes little to no sense. It hinges on the watcher’s belief in a series of well-timed coincidences that are just too much and plot holes so big you could drive a Mack truck through them. But you don’t watch a movie called Shoot ‘Em Up for the plot.
The action in this movie is outstanding, toeing the line of being excessive. Personally, I was sold in the first gunfight. Owen’s character assists in the delivery of the baby while engaging in a gunfight against multiple assailants, all to Nirvana’s Breed. It’s worth noting that while the tempo of Breed fits the scene perfectly, setting a gunfight to Nirvana is not without its concerns considering how the song’s writer died.
Overall, music plays a huge role in this movie, with gunfights set to songs like Motörhead’s Ace of Spades and If You Want Blood (You Got It) by AC/DC. The music sets the tone and the pace of the action sequences well. They are frenzied, imaginative and intense like the songs that frame them.
Amongst the insanity of the action and the plot so thin it could by a New York pizza, there are a couple of engaging performances. Clive Owen always plays the hardened gunman well. There are many points in Shoot ‘Em Up you feel like he’s reprising his role as Dwight in Sin City. But this version has an odd edge to him, constantly being distracted and going off on rambling, angry tirades on topics thoroughly not associated with the plot. He’s almost his own narrator except none of it is internalized…
Monica Bellucci plays the “hooker with a heart of gold” character to perfection, operating as an adoptive mother for the newly orphaned baby. And Paul Giamatti. He plays the main antagonist who is chasing the baby and Clive Owen by association. In addition to driving the plot with his pursuit, Giamatti is also the source of much of the film’s exceptionally dark comedy.
Shoot ‘Em Up is over the top action at its finest. Don’t go looking for a brilliant plot or even a coherent one. Go in looking to have a good time watching Clive Owen do what he does best; shoot ‘em up.
Ian Goodwillie is a columnist for the Spectator Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at@ThePrairieGeek and on Tumblr at iangoodwillie.tumblr.com.
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