Director: Michael Davis
Writer: Michael Davis
Cinematographer: Peter Pau
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci, Stephen McHattie
Studio/Running Time: New Line Cinema, 90 min.
"You can ride the wheels into the sun
Feel the cool wind on your face
Or you can laugh into a loaded gun
And you’ll likely lose your place
So I shot ‘em down, one by one
And I left ‘em along the rails
I only use my gun whenever kindness fails."
-Joe Ely “Whenever Kindness Fails”
While it usually takes a while to get a true sense of a film, the first 10 minutes is really all you need with Shoot ‘Em Up. In that time, you’ll learn that the film’s hero, Mr. Smith (Clive Owen), hates rudeness, can deliver a baby, has an affinity for carrots and can handle a gun like his life depended on it. And it actually does depend on it pretty often.
Writer/director Michael Davis has created an entertaining vehicle for an outrageous premise with a pair of over-the-top (in a good way) performances, one from Owen, and another from Paul Giamatti, who plays the villainous and relentless Mr. Hertz who gets all the best lines. Owen’s James Bondian coolness is wonderfully offset by Giamatti’s running sarcasm. For reasons that later become complicatedly clear, Hertz is trying to kill a newborn baby whose mother dies in Smith’s arms. With some help from a prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci), Smith battles his way through continuously more imaginative sets. From playgrounds to sky diving, the two of them search for the reason the baby’s death is tied to a U.S. Senate race and gun control. There’s even a crazy, politically correct and extremely ironic message from the film: Guns are bad.
While sometimes reminiscent of the Transporter franchise, it’s the stamp of the improbable gun-battle films from the '70s (the same that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez recently paid tribute to in Grindhouse) that is gleefully pervasive throughout Shoot ‘Em Up. In spite of some drifting plotlines and some poor performances from a supporting cast, the movie is a terrific romp. Guns, politics, gratuitous sex and exploitative violence—what better way to end the summer?