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NEW YORK — You can’t accuse Shoot ‘Em Up of not living up to its billing. This ramped-up action movie on steroids essentially consists of one over-the-top shootout after the other, including one taking place during sexual intercourse and another while skydiving. Anyone looking for subtlety, character development or layered plotting will be disappointed, but action fans will find plenty to amuse them with this film that makes “Hard-Boiled” look restrained.
Clive Owen stars as the aptly named, enigmatic Smith, who is first seen minding his own business while munching on a carrot at a bus stop. But when he sees a hugely pregnant woman being pursued by murderous gunmen, his sense of gentlemanliness kicks in. Armed only with the aforementioned vegetable, he intervenes.
In the midst of the ensuing action, he actually stops to deliver the woman’s baby in a bit of particularly violent midwifery. Unfortunately, while the infant survives, the mother doesn’t, and Smith and the baby are hunted by a gang of assassins led by the scowling and henpecked Hertz (Paul Giamatti), who frequently interrupts his efforts in order to take phone calls from his annoyed wife.
Enlisting the help of a beautiful and maternal prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci), Smith attempts to keep his makeshift family safe while trying to figure out why Hertz is so determined to kill the infant. The answer, involving a duplicitous presidential candidate and the issue of gun control, couldn’t be more ironic, considering the circumstances.
Director-screenwriter Michael Davis, who has made only a couple of direct-to-video efforts, displays a sure hand with his staging of the elaborately choreographed action sequences. The satirical nature of the enterprise is indicated not only by the outlandishness of the relentless violence but also by the series of cheesy comic quips delivered by the main characters. Dispatching a villain with one of his ever-trusty carrots, Smith reminds him, “Eat your vegetables.” Hertz, leading his men into action, declares, “The leader who stays in the rear takes it in the rear.”
It’s all very silly, but also undeniably fun, aided greatly by the charismatic presences of the two actors. The brooding Owen, playing the role like a low-rent James Bond, clearly is having a great time despite his ever-deadpan facial expressions. And it’s a real kick watching the nerdy Giamatti kicking ass in a hilarious alpha-male departure from his usual screen persona.
New Line Cinema
A Montford/Murphy production
Screenwriter-director: Michael Davis
Producers: Susan Montford, Don Murphy, Rick Benattar
Executive producers: Douglas Curtis, Toby Emmerich, Cale Boyter
Director of photography: Peter Pau
Production designer: Gary Frutkoff
Music: Paul Haslinger
Costume designer: Denise Cronenberg
Editor: Peter Amundson
Cast: Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti, Stephen McHattie
Rated R, 93 minutes