'Shoot 'Em Up' Needs Taking Out

Even smart, sexy stars can get it wrong.

By Steve Burgess 7 Sep 2007 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess reviews films for The Tyee every second Friday.

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Please shoot me.

Apparently Clive Owen was on the James Bond short list alongside Daniel Craig. Doing Shoot 'Em Up, the new action/comedy from director Michael Davis, might be Owen's revenge on the genre. Too bad it's the innocent who suffer.

Shoot 'Em Up certainly wastes no time on pleasantries. In the hyperkinetic opening sequence, Owen, as the mysterious Mr. Smith, kills a man with a carrot (not for the last time), dispatches a slew of other baddies while sliding across the floor on spilled oil, and delivers a baby while pausing to deliver more gunmen to Hades, finally cutting the umbilical cord with a bullet. After that, Mommy takes a bullet to the forehead that leaves her dead but sexy, with her breast showing through her disheveled blouse. "Nice tits!" says evil villain Hertz (Paul Giamatti), in case we didn't notice. Wheee!

Soon we're off on a plot of sorts about a baby factory and a U.S. senator and a hooker (Monica Bellucci). Jokes along the way include a gun being retrieved from an un-flushed toilet and a dirty diaper being mushed into someone's face. If you're going to do toilet humour, babies are really handy. There's a subtle linkage of sex and death in a scene where Owen shoots a bunch of guys while actually engaged in intercourse with Bellucci. "Talk about shooting your load," he says. With lines like that he'll be governor of California someday. Wheee!

'Dirty diapers and gunfights'

OK, perhaps the carrot was a tip-off. Davis is winking hard here. Don't take this too seriously; let's have some fun, and all that. The problem is that Shoot 'Em Up is no fun. Puerile, misogynistic, sadistic, hyperactive, certainly; fun, no. Some genuine cleverness would forgive many a sin. Instead we get dirty diapers and gunfights where broken neon signs spell out obscenities. Shoot 'Em Up is seriously dumb. Aiming for a nudge and a wink, it ends up delivering a wedgie and a spitball.

It's a genuine shock that Christopher Walken doesn't show up somewhere. He is almost contractually required to mail in a scenery-chewing turn in a trifle like this. Instead it's Giamatti who snarls and gnashes through the uber-villain role. It won't be recalled as his finest hour. Eighty-seven minutes, to be exact -- Shoot 'Em Up at least has the decency not to outlast your large popcorn.

The talented cast suggests that more was expected. Unless Owen, Giamatti and Bellucci lost a collective bet they must have thought they would be participating in a romp, a thrilling send-up of the genre with laughs and thrills a-plenty. And that's just what Shoot 'Em Up will turn out to be, if you're a 14-year-old. A particularly unpleasant 14-year-old, at that. They should give this movie an "R" rating and then pass out fake ID at all the local junior highs. It will be the talk of the lunch room.

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