Here is the best analogy I can offer up for Michael Davis’ action-porn flick, Shoot ‘Em Up: It’s like having amazing, blistering skint-knee intercourse, only to discover after the fact that you were fucking an inflatable doll (mind you, a gorgeous lifelike inflatable doll that looks like Monica Bellucci or Clive Owen — take your pick); it may be completely empty inside, but it’s the goddamn ride of your life. Seriously, I feel like my liberal ass just returned from an NRA convention and inexplicably gushed walking from the gat to the glock table with a steel erection, only to leave with the dirty memory of Charlton Heston’s hot old-man breath tickling the back of my neck as he whispered into my ear, “Come to the dark side, you pinko hippy cocksucker.”
And if all vacuous, meaningless action flicks were as tit-ripping glorious as Shoot ‘Em Up, I might be inclined — cinematically speaking — to switch teams, turn off my brain, and throw away the remote, forever locking myself onto the Drool Network. Hell, to call Shoot ‘Em Up mindless is to do an extreme disservice to cerebral function, but god. damn it will feather-tickle your id until you’re surfing the white waves and then it will throw you to the side of the road like the bitch you are.
And if you’re like me, you’ll have your pants around your ankles begging to get back on.
I mean, really, I could sum up the entire movie-going experience this way: Clive Owen. Paul Giamatti. Monica Bellucci. Guns. Ammo. Buckets of blood. A few carrots. And your ass: Kicked. But, they pay me the tiny tiny bucks to fill the Internet void, so some details are necessary, though to outline the plot would suggest that Shoot ‘Em Up has one. The notion is laughable. It’s about as thin as tissue paper but, thankfully, absorbent enough to soak up a Danny Torrance wet dream at the Overlook Hotel. Besides, the nonsensical storyline distracts from the body count, which is about as high as a stack of Monty Python wheelbarrows.
The film opens with a long shot of a loner, Smith (Owen), sitting in a park bench, minding his own business, chomping on a taproot when a pregnant lady stumbles by fleeing from a gunman. Misanthropic drifter though he is, Smith takes the bait and follows them into a warehouse, where unholy numbers of bullets are fired, the dead fall in waves, and before the all is said and done, Smith has jammed a carrot through the back of man’s head, delivered a baby, severed the umbilical cord with firepower, and escaped with the newborn, leaving behind a dead mom. He then tracks down a lactating hooker (Bellucci), who tags along on the journey, as the rest of the film is spent mostly running and gunning, including one of the most preposterously breathtaking scenes in the history of film, in which Owen and Bellucci fornicate while simultaneously blowing a number of stormtrooping hitmen away. The main follower is Hertz (Giamatti), who is after the baby for political reasons that don’t make a lot of sense and that don’t really matter that much in the end — token motive and narrative only existing to get you from dazzling gunfight to gunfight, anyway.
Of course, if you want to criticize a movie for its amorality and excessive violence, Shoot ‘Em Up offers an easy target, though I’d ask that you take the gorgeous, prize-winning corn cob out of your ass first. It’s cheap, gleeful carnage. There’s nothing painful, grim, or uncomfortably intimate about the mayhem; the good guys win, the bad guys die. It’s just plain old Itchy-and-Scratchy cartoon violence at its most delightful, basically Home Alone with lots (and lots) of bullets and the sort of visceral face-break punishment that will leave you pleading for more, you naughty bastard.
But then, again, I am by no means suggesting that Shoot ‘Em Up is actually good: It’s dumb as kidney stones, repetitive as hell, and so over the top that Lincoln Hawk should be asking for royalties and the soundtrack should feature Kenny Loggins’ “Meet Me Halfway.” But, for action junkies who’ve been walking around with a soft-on since Bourne Ultimatum left theaters, Davis’ violent blood-and-guts ballet will make you squee like an Irish banshee waking up in a Baltimore funeral parlor. And while some might argue that Shoot ‘Em Up is way too pleased with itself, I think that gives entirely too much credit to Davis, who’s not exactly Edgar Wright here, unless we just missed the brilliance of burp tennis in Davis’ 2002 cable movie, Girl Fever.
If this same movie featured Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, I’d probably hate it — but by bringing in Oscar-worthy actors, Owen and Giamatti have dual-handedly pulled the wool over the smart kids’ eyes and I, for one, was all too willing to walk willfully blind into the firing squad. I don’t know what the hell they were doing in this film, except that perhaps Tarantino, et al. were too busy fellating Frank Miller to work with them and the two actors really wanted to make a stylistically violent film; as luck would have it, Michael Davis was their only option. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but they do freakin’ miracles here. Of course, they don’t give out acting awards for films like this, which is a shame, because both Giamatti and Owen deserve something for not only enlivening this preposterousness, but for refusing to commit the cardinal sin of dramatic actors: taking themselves too goddamn seriously.
Likewise, there’s no point in taking the movie too seriously, either. It’s precisely what the title suggests: a shoot ‘em up, maybe the greatest video game movie ever made that’s not actually based on a video game. And besides, when the hell else are you going to see a movie with a soundtrack that features AC/DC, Motorhead, and Motley Crue? In fact, it’s befitting that “Kickstart My Heart” is used so liberally in the marketing of Shoot ‘Em Up because, like the Crue, the movie is completely moronic, painfully loud, and unbelievably awesome.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Shoot 'Em Up / Dustin Rowles
Film | September 9, 2007 | Comments ()