Looking at Shoot ‘Em Up, I can’t think of a more ingenious, far-fetched and action-packed shoot-‘em-up since John Woo's magnificent action spectacle Hard-Boiled. While other flicks in the same genre often fail to thrill audiences, Shoot ‘Em Up scores big time. The story may be too ridiculous to believe, but the movie builds solid and memorable characters, keeps the pace at the highest possible level for 86 straight minutes, and provokes more laughter than you could possibly handle. If you really seek to give your brain a break and desire to enjoy the delicious silliness of a hardcore action extravaganza, Shoot ‘Em Up is your movie!
As the movie opens, we are introduced to Mr. Smith (Clive Owen), who calmly sits on a bench chewing on his carrot. Seconds later, a pregnant woman minutes away from giving birth stumbles around the street corner, closely followed by a horde of ruthless killers who want her and her baby dead. Although Smith is hardly impressed, the sound of a screaming lady chased by bad guys really gets on his nerves, prompting him to dump his carrot and intervene. Next thing we know he's helping the woman deliver her baby in a warehouse, while simultaneously taking out at least 20 gunmen. For the next hour and a half, Smith stops at absolutely nothing to protect the infant from a sadistic hitman named Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti), who orchestrated the assassination. Smith's only ally in this fierce quest for survival is a popular hooker (Monica Bellucci), who really has no business babysitting a strange kid but quickly ends up becoming a target herself…
Considering the intensity of the first-class action and the brilliance behind the non-stop shootouts, cutting-edge stunts, and pursuits that dominate the plot, Shoot ‘Em Up is a unique celebration for every hardcore fan of the genre. Whether Mr. Smith shoots 15 people from various positions during a passionate sex scene, or whether he jumps all around his own place firing a submachine gun while holding the baby, the list of insane sequences is endless. Writer-director Michael Davis' script is wildly ridiculous and beyond anything credible, but the structure of the glorious stunts and the sarcastic humor skillfully make plausibility an issue no one will care about. After all, it’s all about bullets baby!
Given the striking diversity of every of those unique action scenes, it’s practically impossible to decide on which battle in the flick is the sharpest and most wicked. Sure, the level of implausibility dramatically rises as the running time nears its end, but every shootout is unique in itself, thus making it a lot harder for any lunatic filmmaker to top Shoot ‘Em Up in the near future. Moreover, the film majestically succeeds in never taking itself too seriously, offering endless opportunities for satirical commentary, especially about gun control. Whether Smith or Hertz take on weapons or politics, the hilarious gags and wordplays keep coming as much as the bullets keep flying around.
Clive Owen is seriously brilliant in the role of Mr. Smith, the life savior and gun expert. He adores chewing on carrots (Bugs Bunny, anyone?), his face radiates a continuous coolness, he's got all the right moves and can deliver any wacky line you supply him with. Smith anticipates every move from his enemies and always has at least one loaded gun within reach. Although we know from the beginning that nobody will ever beat this guy, Owen maintains the suspense in surprising us with over-the-top stunts and improvised one-liners. Plus, his character has some hilarious pet peeves. Smith hates guys with ponytails and people chewing on gum, and he doesn’t care to let them know in hi own personal way. The same goes for Paul Giamatti, whose got the looks that kill, plays a ferocious brute, and can be just as uproarious.
Shoot ‘Em Up is a film designed for action fans with a strong stomach who don't mind watching gruesome violenc. Logic is conspicuously absent in the story, but hey, if every other aspect in this movie just keeps pushing you off the edge of your seat, what’s the big deal? This flick is about hilarious situations involving bullets, blood, laughter and sex, and if that's indeed on your to-do list, well...go shoot ‘em up already.
In a nutshell, the Shoot ‘Em Up DVD is loaded with explosive extras serving as a perfect complement to the feature film. Besides nine intense deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by director Michael Davis, the bonus material also includes 20 minutes worth of original animatics, which Davis drew by hand to pitch the film to New Line Cinema. He says he’s extremely proud of his drawings because they helped him convince the producers to green-light the film.
Also included on the disc is “Ballet of Bullets,” an impressive five-part documentary about the making of the film. Clocking in at almost an hour, this featurette is definitely the most insightful of the extras, supplying its viewers with compelling information about the shooting of the movie. Davis raves about his script and briefly mentions how he convinced New Line to make the film, moving on to discuss the casting and how excited he was to have Clive Owen portray his action hero. Members of the cast also get a chance to speak up and add some interesting detail about their badass characters. This piece is particularly intriguing because it covers major aspects of the production of the movie. From the shooting of some of the most gripping action sequences to a short introduction to all the different guns used in the film, this behind-the-scenes look offers everything you possibly ever wanted to know about Shoot ‘Em Up. It will have you hooked.
The feature commentary by writer/director Michael Davis is yet another must on the DVD. I love commentaries because they give directors the opportunity to act all enthusiastic about their films, and Davis definitely shows some serious passion for his action flick. He adds a bunch of details about literally ever scene, talking about what he would have added or what they could have cut, what he loves about the sequences, and why his actors look so great. He also goes on about what challenges he and his crew encountered during the shooting and how exciting it was as a whole to write and direct such an over-the-top action spectacle. Since the film is so fast-paced and fun to watch, it’s fairly easy and enjoyable to watch it again with the excellent commentary turned on.
Shoot ‘Em Up is a violent movie that will have you sit on the edge of your seat with barely any breaks to breathe between the ass-kicking action scenes and stellar acting performances. The special features section on the DVD offers explosive content you shouldn’t miss at any cost, raising only your lust to watch the movie over and over again. Bang! Bang! Bang!