The name says it

Shoot ’Em Up

Shoot ’Em Up
Starring Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci. Directed by Michael Davis. Rated R.
Rated 4.0

A weary-looking tough guy (Clive Owen) is parked on a bus-stop bench in the bad part of town, munching on a carrot and seemingly waiting for nothing. A very panicked and very pregnant woman staggers by, disappearing into an alley. On her heels is a thug who snarls an epithet at our tough guy and, drawing a rod, follows the woman.

What’s a tough guy to do under these circumstances? He exhales a world-wearied sigh and follows, carrot at the ready.

Soon our putative hero is on the move, the newborn bundled in a bulletproof backpack and a lactating hooker (Monica Bellucci) in tow to muffle the baby’s squalling as thugs throw bullets at them and Owen throws ’em back. With interest. Seems some folks seriously want the baby dead. The reason is sorta goofy, but then so is the movie.

What follows is one of the more delirious action set-pieces delivered to the screen in quite a while … when the first screen death involves a carrot, there’s no turning back. Shoot ’Em Up is being taken as a lampoon or parody of action films, but that’s a misnomer. It doesn’t make fun of the conventions; it just doesn’t bother to adhere to them. It’s more of an offshoot, an action film that realizes the inherent silliness of the genre and embraces it. It’s a burgeoning sub-genre that would include Crank, a live-action cartoon of mayhem.

As such, it is funnier than most (if not all) comedies I’ve seen this year, and it certainly lived up to its name … sorta. I felt a little cheated that it wasn’t bloodier and, yes, more mean-spirited. It’s one big ol’ cartoon, but I could have used a little more creativity in the mayhem … after about the 50th thug getting shot and falling down, it started getting old really fast (probably at about the 15-minute mark).

Also, sometimes Paul Giamatti annoys me with his Richard Dreyfuss impression, and here as the main villain he is in full Dreyfuss-y manqué. But the sex scene with Bellucci was certainly creative.

The film brings with it an excellent soundtrack (this may be the first film since Heavy Metal where I felt tempted to headbang along), but it was no Crank. If Mötley Crüe were the standard for the action film, this would be Motörhead … not as satirical as Spinal Tap, but still with an outré sense of humor about itself. But as a headbanging mayhem monster, this is about the best I expect to see this year.