If you are a cinephile, there will be a handful of movies in your lifetime that you will feel the need to defend ardently, convinced that it’s a movie that most of the world just “didn’t get.” But even thinking that puts you at a disadvantage, because majority often rules. So one must choose their battles carefully.
Making a living evaluating, loving, and writing about films, I very rarely write the “all of you are wrong” articles, because I know that they can really force a writer into exile, especially depending on what portion of your audience he or she is calling out. In this case, involving the vastly misunderstood and wholly brilliant 2007 action film starring Clive Owen called Shoot Em Up, I have no problem pulling up a soapbox, grabbing a microphone, and letting 90% of the world know they were wrong about this film. This is not the silly action film that most take it as. Just the three stars in the film alone should tell you that. Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, and Paul Giamatti. And you think, based on those three alone, that this movie is the film you think it is? No.
This is not THAT action movie. This is the movie that is completely mocking those movies, and doing so with Shakesperean levels of brilliance. Yes, I just name dropped Shakespeare in an article about Shoot Em Up. Man, the comments are gonna get hairy, huh? Well, I can promise you that you’ll feel less compelled to want to strangle me by the end of this piece than you feel right now. Trust me there. Or not. Who knows, really?
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The first thing you all need to understand for any of this to work is just who Clive Owen is portraying. This might be hard for you to grasp, but honestly, this is the truth. Do you actually think him always having a carrot is just a “funky prop?” He just likes carrots? Well, right there, you are immediately off about what you are seeing. Clive Owen may be portraying a man named “Smith” in this picture, but do you know who he was based on?
He is based on Bugs Bunny. No, really he is.
Director Michael Davis deliberately modelled the character and his mannerisms and confidence after Bugs Bunny. That is why, in the first moment you see him in the film, he is literally just sitting there, munching on a carrot. If you think back to almost any early Looney Tunes cartoons, that is how we would be introduced to Bugs Bunny. The screen would pan by and he would just be matter-of-fact-ly eating his carrot with a “so what” look on his face. And that is JUST how we meet Smith in Shoot Em Up. This also starts the over-the-top, cartoon action too, right away, with no dialogue.
We just see a pregnant woman running past a carrot munching Clive Owen, and we see the he sees that armed men are chasing her for some reason, trying to kill her. To this he responds with a roll of the eyes, and a very British sounding “f*cking Hell” and he gets up and readies to go save her, as if he finds himself in this situation all the time. Brilliant. Silly. Satirical.
But take your break now, because the movie starts up and never takes a breath from this moment forth.
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Next up, we need to talk about the birthing scene. This unnamed woman goes into labor, and “Smith” delivers the baby WHILE still engaged in a shootout. He is delivering this screaming woman’s baby, all whilst spinning and popping bad guys like they are black heads. The whole time he keeps this determined look on his face, like this is no big thing, and to top it off, when he can’t figure out what to do with the umbilical, he shoots it. He literally shoots her umbilical chord to separate Mother and baby. Cartoon much?
And some people dare say this movie sucks because it is cheesy? Are you SERIOUS?
You could not tell in this moment that the movie was just going all in and pulling no punches? What is the ONLY thing separating this from being a cartoon? The fact that is’t not animated. Everything else about it, from the generic look and constant supply of stupid bad guys, to the multiple carrot executions that happen in this movie, it is all cartoon, so why are some people judging it in the same way they would judge a film like The King’s Speech or Braveheart? This movie is not trying to tell us some story. This movie is painting vivid caricatures, giving us some major John Woo levels of violence, and topping it off with some seriously great, over-the-top performances from top tier talent. Honestly, what is there NOT to love? This is live-action Looney Tunes as made by John Woo. Only a commie wouldn’t like something this magical.
And how about that love scene?
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A scene so stupidly awesome, that Drive Angry had to recreate it with Nic “NOT THE BEES” Cage. Again, if you watched this scene, shaking your head at how unrealistic and silly Shoot Em Up was and how, and I quote you now in a nerd voice “There is no way he could successfully manage to stay inside her and accurately shoot all of those bad guys,” than you missed the entire point of this movie and this scene. It is poking fun at the idea of action movies like this. The movies we used to get in the 80′s, that featured one man, taking out whole third world countries without any help, and barely ever showing any emotion or breaking a sweat. That is what Shoot Em Up is. An homage the the cartoons you loved as a child, mashed up with the action movies you grew up with. Do you see how magic that is? It is like a gift from the movie heavens, and yet, people scoff at it.
And one last thing I want to praise about this movie is EVERYTHING about the Paul Giamatti character, Hertz. He is the kind of bad guy who foams at the mouth, seemingly ready to bite a baby’s head off at any point. EXCEPT when his wife calls, at which point, you can hear that is just an emasculated house husband who lives under the reign of a domineering and (presumably fat) wife. It is hilarious the way they play that dichotomy, right up the end of the movie, when he finally has a moment of, what we shall call clarity. He is the bad guy you love to hate, but he plays the character with such gusto and has so much fun for it, it has me really excited to see what Giamatti will do as Rhino in the new Spidey flick.
So if you are watching Shoot Em Up, thinking you are watching an action film in the realest sense of the word, you are setting yourself up not to like this movie. But if you are sitting down, having grown up on Bugs Bunny cartoons and amazing, slow-motion shootouts from John Woo movies (with a liberal dose of video game action tossed in between), than you will love Shoot Em Up for just what it is.
An amazing ride and what so few movies are anymore. Fun. The live-action cartoon you always wanted, but almost overlooked when you finally got it.Previous