Milk and carrots

Shoot ’Em Up

Some dads will do <i>anything</i> to get out of driving carpool.

Some dads will do anything to get out of driving carpool.

Rated 2.0

I’ll say it right out of the gate: Shoot ’Em Up contains some of the best gunfights you will ever see in a movie. There are sequences in this film that put gleeful, original spins on the old guns-a-blazing Hollywood mainstay. In these moments, the movie is tons of fun. Almost worth watching.

Unfortunately, director Michael Davis doesn’t want to stop at pushing the envelope with innovative bullet exchange. He wants all facets of his movie to go the extreme, and like Smokin’ Aces, the movie often goes too far and becomes an annoyance instead of entertainment. It wallows in a kind of visual squalor for much of its running time.

I have a short list of the Top 10 things I don’t need to see in a movie, and that list includes repeated shots of baby shit getting smeared on somebody’s face. And, oh yeah, placing in the Top 10 would be the sight of a grown man in a diaper with breast milk dripping from his chin because he’s been feasting on a lactating hooker.

I’m thinking I might have just stopped a whole bunch of you from going to see this movie.

The first 10 minutes are great. Clive Owen is introduced in the film in a way that had me thinking I was going to be watching some sort of action-thriller classic. Then, well, the lactating hookers show up.

The hooker, Donna, is played by the beautiful Monica Bellucci (Mary in The Passion of the Christ), and her career has seen better days. Seeing such a stunning actress reduced to this sad a role is nothing short of depressing. Also, the very Italian Bellucci has a rather poor command of the English language. This results in the dreaded audio hell of a performer parroting lines, rather than actually knowing what she is saying. All of her dialogue delivery is painfully stiff; sandpaper on the ears. I would’ve preferred her speaking in Italian and me reading the subtitles.

Owen plays Smith, a maestro with a gun. He’s a mysterious character thrown into a situation where he’s protecting a baby that he rescues from an evil hit man named Hertz (a fitfully disgusting Paul Giamatti). If anything, the film is proof of Owen’s massive star power, because he almost makes things tolerable.

As for Giamatti, he’s almost a little too good at being gross. A scene where he touches the breast of a dead woman is acted with, perhaps, a little too much feeling. Again, director Davis tends to throw things up on the screen that I really don’t need to see.

There’s a running gag with carrots, Smith’s food of choice. He’s continuously chomping on the vegetable and, when the moment suits him, uses them as lethal weapons. In the universe of Shoot ’Em Up, carrots have the penetrating power of a railroad spike, with Owen driving carrots through victim’s heads, via the eye socket. Seems to me that a carrot with the potential to drive through skull and brain matter would be destructive to Owen’s teeth, but he chomps on them without difficulty. I didn’t see any teeth chipping.

As for those unique gunfights, one that had me laughing occurred when Smith is making love to Donna. Smith keeps the action going in both ways, dispatching many a villain with his gun while keeping Donna satisfied. It’s ridiculous, but undeniably funny. Another fun sequence happens when Smith parachutes from an airliner and has a gunfight on the way down to the ground. The opening fight sequence has Smith rolling around and jumping through the air, fighting bad guys while cradling the baby. All of this amounts to innovative action filmmaking.

Too bad Davis screws it up with the foul material. For every one thing that works in Shoot ’Em Up, there are two things that don’t. Owen, Giamatti and especially Bellucci deserve better than this. I’m thinking Davis has some better films in him—he just needs to calm his ass down.