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February 2008 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Shoot 'Em Up
cast: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci, Stephen McHattie, and Daniel Pilon

director: Michael Davis

86 minutes (18) 2006
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Mr Smith hates you. To be fair, Mr Smith hates everyone; he's a glowering, seething ball of English hate that only has his carrots and his phenomenal talent for violence to comfort him. Until, that is, a woman runs past him, clearly in labour, pursued by a man with a gun. Smith, very reluctantly, gets involved and in doing so triggers the least subtle, loudest, most savagely violent action movie of 2007.

Make no mistake; this is a Bugs Bunny cartoon with blood. From the moment Mr Smith dispatches the first wave of assassins with terrifying ease and creativity to the point where he parachutes out of a presidential candidate's jet and engages in a freefall gunfight with parachute commandoes to the strains of If You Want Blood by AC/DC, this is nothing more than a set of increasingly demented action set pieces. And make no mistake, it's incredibly good fun.

Clive Owen's snarling, sardonic Smith is immense fun, a man who hates the world for very good reasons (because after all, what's an action hero without some angst) and isn't afraid to say that out loud. Frequently. He's a tremendously battered, tremendously bitter figure who, it's clear, is actually enjoying himself rather more than he wants to admit.

Ranged against him is Paul Giamatti (Lady In The Water) as the splendidly named Mr Hertz. A former FBI profiler, Mr Hertz is now a hitman with a seemingly endless army of disposable lackeys and one mission; kill the baby. Giamatti is one of those character actors who seems physically incapable of turning in bad work and here he's on top form, a leering, manic ball of hate and bad suits, as desperate to keep his wife happy during her incessant phone calls (according to her, he's out of town on 'business') as he is to do the job. He and Owen make a fantastic blood-soaked double act, and there's an early scene in particular, which involves the pair communicating through shooting out letters in a neon sign that's both inventive and really, really funny.

Monica Bellucci, as the lactating hooker who Smith takes the baby to, is equally fun and the film arguably reaches its creative peak, or pulpy nadir depending on your point of view, during a sex scene between her and Owen, which is interrupted (but not stopped) by a gunfight. The scenes with her, Smith and the baby hiding in a tank in a local war museum are also tremendous fun, a postmodern post-nuclear family hiding in a relic of a forgotten war.

Shoot 'Em Up isn't remotely clever, has no moral worth whatsoever and has outraged or just plain irritated most mainstream critics. Which, to my mind, is a real recommendation. This is flat out, head down pulp, the worst excesses of the action movie magnified by a thousand and as a result it's huge, huge fun. Mr Smith may hate you, but you'll love spending time with him.

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