13 July 2008 | bob the moo
Utter nonsense but yet it works as a both a pastiche and tribute to gun-crazy action movies
Smith is minding his own business when he sees a heavily pregnant woman being pursued by an armed man. He defends her honour and, in the ensuing gun battle, he delivers her child just before she is shot. He flees with the infant but finds that the target is none other than the baby itself. Turning to a lactating prostitute for help, Smith remains a target for an increasing number of killers under the instruction of violent family man and contractor Hertz.
Let's get one thing out of the way here from the very start because I think it is one thing that all viewers can agree on whether you liked this film or not it is utter nonsense. Not "silly" or "lacking logic" but just out and out nonsense. OK, so now that we have agreed that, what we shall disagree on is just how important that is in regards the enjoyment of this film. You see the film actually works on two very important levels which I think probably explains why it is generally well regarded on this site despite it being, well, nonsense. Instead of worrying about character and plotting and other things that most action films at least try to have, this just goes all out in a ballet of violence and guns that is about as close to action film pornography as I think I have ever seen. However at the same time it never takes itself seriously a fact proved by just how bad some of the gimmicks (the carrots) and dialogue is as well as just how overblown the action is.
By doing this the film hits two audience sectors. Mostly obviously it will appeal to those who just love to see things explode, people die and guns look cool. No doubt it appeals to them because this is a film where the action is constant and even the sex scenes with gorgeous women turn into a gunfight where the phallic nature of the gun could not be made more obvious unless it had a pair of grenades taped either side of the barrel. It revels in violence and gun play, with the gun even forming a marriage band of sorts at one point. However what makes the film worth seeing is that it also appeals to those of us that like action but won't watch any old rubbish. Amazingly it does this by being so overblown and ludicrous that it actually takes the p1ss from the genre in a way that is fun to watch (and also allows those with intellectual aspirations to enjoy the violence while also distancing themselves from it). It sounds unlikely and it may have been a fluke but this is what the film does and it is really good.
I'm pretty sure it was planned because the cast seem sold on the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Owen is great in this dual action hero role and he puts himself 100% into it while also having his tongue in his cheek. Likewise Giamatti, who is not at his best here but yet still drives the mockery and effectiveness of his character. Bellucci concludes the starry cast with a so-so turn, which is perhaps understandable as she is solely here for her sex appeal (which is immense). The rest of the cast are either solid bit players with little to do or goons who fall over. Kudos to the effects department as well for the "baby", which manages to look real for the majority of the time.
Shoot 'Em Up is not a great film and it is based on nonsense but yet it somehow works. By being overblown to the degree it is, it works as both an excessive action film and also a pastiche on how excessive the action genre can be. It will not appeal to everyone even with this, but this made it work for me on both levels and it was much better than I expected it to be as a result.