One of the best action flicks to hit the big screen in a long while, Shoot 'Em Up is a fresh approach to a genre that has been lacking and over-relying on the awe of special effects and stuff being blown up.
Clive Owen is Shoot's man with no past, known only as Mr. Smith. Unable to resist a damsel in distress, he tails a lone gunman into an abandoned warehouse. However, within minutes, the gunman is joined by a lot of friends with a lot more guns.
Despite his best efforts, the damsel dies and Smith becomes the caregiver and bodyguard to her newborn boy. Realizing he can’t care for the boy alone, he enlists the help of lactating prostitute DQ (Monica Bellucci). On the opposing team, Paul Giamatti delivers a brilliantly pacified performance, leading the onslaught against the infant while ensuring his wife he’ll be home in time for his own son’s birthday.
This is writer/director Michael Davis’ first action film, but he brings to it a knowledge of what has worked in classics like the Die Hard series and what has been missing in recent bullet-riddled spectacles. In addition, he treats the audience to new and original uses for a gun as well as never-before-seen methods of killing the bad guys (several of which involve a carrot).
Davis’ experience with comedy generates witty dialogue and a long string of one-liners that evade the realm of cheesy. Action fans know humor combined with unrealistic violence are standards of the genre’s gems. One example comes as Mr. Hertz (Giamatti) finally asks after losing another battle, “Is this guy that good or do we really suck?”
The numerous gunfight scenes are not made irritatingly blurry with dizzying fact-paced editing. Part of this can be attributed to Owen performing most of his own stunts, making it unnecessary to hide the identity of a stunt double. Furthermore, these scenes are accompanied by rhythmically matched music from AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Mötley Crüe and Motörhead.
Finally, typical to the couple-on-the-run action story, the guns stop firing long enough for a steamy scene between Owen and Bellucci – but this film takes the occasion to a whole new level. And it once again proves tough guys eat their vegetables.
Shoot ‘Em Up is a non-stop thrill ride that is not only spectacular but clever, too.