Monday, 22 July 2024

Violence, gunplay fill the bill of 'Shoot 'Em Up'

SHOOT ‘EM UP (Rated R)

The pervasively strong bloody violence that runs nonstop through “Shoot ‘Em Up” is an American tribute to the Hong Kong action cinema popularized by director John Woo, most particularly in “Hardboiled.”

Writer-director Michael Davis has made it clear that the seeds of unrelenting gunplay of his new movie were sown by the inspiration of Woo, which has frankly been evident in a number of recent films that stage outlandish scenarios of explosive gunfights. So over-the-top in its violence, “Shoot ‘Em Up” seems that it would have been most fitting as part of the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez collaboration that was “Grindhouse.”

Excess is redefined in “Shoot ‘Em Up,” where the amount of firepower delivered from handguns to machine guns is enough to rival numerous major offensives in large scale military battles.

The film’s hero is the enigmatic Mr. Smith (British actor Clive Owen), who comes across as the world’s angriest man with a fetish for raw carrots. We first see him minding his own business, sitting at a bus stop in an unidentified grimy urban area.

Munching on the proverbial carrot, Mr. Smith springs into action when a pregnant woman runs by screaming as she’s pursued by a carload of assassins. Intervening to save the helpless woman, Mr. Smith is soon acting as midwife for a delivery, while holding off an assault of bad guys with expert precision in formidable gunplay. Unlike Bugs Bunny, Mr. Smith also demonstrates the lethal power of a well-placed carrot.

In the midst of a ferocious gunfight, the hardboiled Mr. Smith takes it upon himself to protect an innocent newborn child. After the mother dies of a gunshot wound, his maternal instincts are seriously lacking, so he teams up with a lactating prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci), with whom he has some sort of shaky history.

While his mysterious brooding quality remains intact, Mr. Smith reveals little of himself, except his annoyance with the little things in life that can be irritating, with his temper blowing up amusingly in a scene where he becomes vengeful against a driver committing the cardinal sins of not using his turn signals and throwing trash out the window of his car.

When not teaching a lesson to careless and rude jerks, Mr. Smith is spending most of his time reloading and shooting a variety of weapons. This is necessary because he and DQ must save the baby from Hertz (Paul Giamatti), a sadistic gangster with a pencil pusher’s eyeglasses and a terrible combover.

Though plot is hardly an integral matter, the machinations behind the scenes involve a diabolical plan to harvest babies for the bone marrow needed by a crusading politician running for president, who ironically is in favor of strict gun control, if only for the moment. Senator Rutledge (Daniel Pilon) is the usual annoying political gasbag full of hot air, and you can easily anticipate his deserved fate.

Possibly the fastest-moving film of the modern era (even surpassing the adrenaline-fueled “Crank”), “Shoot ‘Em Up” does little more than turn Mr. Smith loose for every conceivable type of shootout, with each setup increasingly more outlandish. Mr. Smith spins a playground carousel with bullets so a sniper can’t shoot the baby lying on it. He rappels down a stairwell on a rope, shooting scores of black-clad commandos in the rapid fire of his machine gun. There’s a gunfight while Mr. Smith and paratroopers are free-falling out of an airplane. Even during a lovemaking scene with DQ, Mr. Smith becomes engaged in a gun battle.

By now, it should be abundantly clear that the comic-book violence of endless shootouts is nonstop, increasingly inventive and cleverly entertaining, at least for action junkies.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” delights in its ability to go completely wild and out-of-control, but it also has a dark sense of humor that is most promising. Indeed, there are a slew of witty one-liners delivered by the sarcastic Mr. Smith, and Hertz gets in the act with well-placed verbal punches.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” is not for every taste, but it is a strangely fun ride. Caution should be exercised by moviegoers, as this film is definitely not the family-friendly type.

Tim Riley writes television and movie reviews for Lake County News.


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