Sunday, October 28, 2007


RUNTIME: 86 min.
RATING: *** 1/2

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”, said Jean-Luc Godard once. Shoot ’em Up seems to take that too religiously, adds a baby to the menu, follows the principle of make it so bad that it is good and goes wham bham bham bham, literally. And all that with a method and a huge sense of humor. It is the opening sequence that does it and says it all, Clive Owen eats a carrot, pushes a carrot through a guy’s throat, slides through a gallon of costly gasoline while shooting at least a dozen ducks posing as humans, jumps though a window and over the heads of dumb bad guys and shoots ‘em in the face, and then, just as you’re asking yourself “what the hell is this” he shoots the three word Shoot-‘em-Up onto the screen. Well, those three shots are for your brains, blow them apart for the next 80 odd minutes for what is following is nonsensically entertaining. Whatever that means.
Remember John Woo’s The Killer where he has a girl in his hand as he is shooting off the bad guys, or more precisely Hardboiled where he has a baby? That was just an action setting. Director Michael Davis has, as he has told in numerous interviews, just made a movie out of it, the baby being the centre of attraction. Of course, the lady is there too, in Monica Belluci (Donna Quintano).
If one is wondering why DQ, film critic Roger Ebert has already solved the mystery for all of us – Dairy Queen. And she has been cast for what she is most famous for, her drop dead looks. No acting please, any histrionic attempt might be dealt with the only way the movie deems possible, shoot ‘em up. Clive Owen (Smith, reminds me of the Smith & Wesson) is the classic man with no name character who is incredibly adept at turkey shooting, only that he has been now given a carrot too. And mind you, the carrot isn’t just a good vegetable, especially for your eyes, it is an interesting vegetable that can be put to multiple uses – 1. It can be used to kill a bad guy by shoving it straight down his throat 2. If your fingers are at use someplace else, or are out of service, the carrot can be interestingly used as a finger too especially to pull the trigger – and if you’re a good guy you will find that vegetable everywhere. So, coming back, Smith sees a pregnant woman running away from a hood with a gun. He, for some reason, utters the fantastic word and follows them, as if it is all an obligation. Wonder, does Man with No Name have to be a vigilante? Anyways, he delivers the baby while shooting the guys, cuts off the umbilical cord with the bullet too and than is the man with the baby, the mother getting one of the billion rounds fired during the course of the film. Meanwhile, Hertz (Paul Giamatti), the baddest guy, who might as well have horns sticking out for the sake of easy recognition, is behind them for the baby. Why, one might ask? Shoot ‘em up, duh.
Clive Owen is probably in his perfect action role, where his bland-flavored charisma is put to fantastic use. He was supposed to be the successor to Pierce Brosnan for the super spy; here he gets his own little film to practice all sorts of cool stuff from the Bond hall of fame, right from target practice to the girl to firing one-liners. He could wink at Craig too, victoriously, for Belluci is hands down a better co-star than Eva Green. For his part, Owen makes the character, or whatever Smith stands for, believable and that is quiet and achievement. Paul Giamatti gets the meaty part of the histrionics parts and he relishes every moment, getting his own one-liners every now and then. “You know what is the difference between a gun and a woman?” he asks his naïve henchmen who shake their head, as they should in movies for the bad guy to make his line. “You can put a silencer on a gun.” I didn’t exactly find it funny but a smile still appeared on my face, the kind of smile that acknowledges the low sense of humor of teenagers. In a way, the entire film is straight out of a teenager fed up on video games, violent action films, porn and hell of a lot of gun stuff. There is that rebellious nature in the film, if you see a mother spanking her child you spank her back. If you see a silver-spoon-in-his-mouth-all-the-time kid driving his way to madness for himself and peril for others on the road, crash him off the road. If you don’t like an over-smart pony-tailed punk, shoot his horse-tail off. As Giamatti’s character quips, tit for tat.
As for action, there is just hell of a lot of that. It wants to be campy and humorous true, and I get the point too for a couple of sequences are wonderfully entertaining. But somehow, the things just don’t stand memorable at the end, and I am sure any self respecting action film wants to have its action sequences remembered. To make it all funny and put it up as an excuse is just being taking the easy way out, in my opinion. There’re sure some action sequences that are entertaining, I repeat, but on the whole the package is just repetitive. A one trick pony where the trick is to make action over the top. Looks good up front but what happens during the rest of the course of the film is the mere showcase of new ways, and we as audience is expecting that. It gets a little tiring towards the end. The movie isn’t brilliant enough to be deemed must watch, it somehow manages to remain mere entertaining. I would like to add here though, if someone comes back from a screening and critics that the film is preposterous, ask him whether his sense of humor caught one of those bullets flying around in the air.
Director Michael Davis seems to be the kind of guy who when makes a joke has few of the guys laughing but almost everyone is smiling, not because the joke is funny but because he is so cheerful and likable. The film too, is offensive but it is so cute, if I may say so, that we hardly mind. Even his bad guys seem to be likable, Giamatti here, and when he asks them to do a really cruel sequence it feels like he doesn’t really want them to do that. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made that homage films earlier this year, in Grindhouse. Seems Shoot ‘em Up is not a homage but the real deal, and with minimum of fuss.

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