Shoot 'Em Up (2007)

Rating: **
Release Date: 9/7/07
Cinematography: Peter Pao
Cast: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Belucci

This aptly named silly action farce sets a new standard for cinematic absurdity. Smith (monotonic Clive Owen) is an angry loner whose life gets turned upside down when he rescues a pregnant woman from a group of armed pursuers and proceeds to deliver her baby during a shootout. Unfortunately, mommy doesn't make it and Smith makes the near fatal mistake of taking the child with him. From here on out, he is relentlessly pursued by a ruthless (and slightly crazy) hitman named Hertz (delightful Paul Giamatti). Smith hooks up with a lactating prostitute named Donna (a sorely wasted Monica Belucci) to look after the newborn, immediately making her a target for Hertz as well. Constantly on the run from Hertz and his endless supply of incompetent goons, Smith and Donna try to put together the ridiculous story behind the baby. The only conclusion is that they'll have to kill everyone involved in order for them and the baby to be safe. And so they do.

While I have nothing against style over substance, when you don't like the style, there's not much left to fall back on. The film has the mentality, wit, and sophistication of a 15-year old boy, and that said I probably would have loved this movie as a kid. Unfortunately, my taste for action is much more refined these days, and this film doesn't hit my sweet spots. It's also more trashy than I prefer, and none of the characters are even remotely interesting or likable. In this way, the film is very reminiscent of Frank Miller's "Sin City" (2005). Only Paul Giamatti rises above this dreadful landscape with his over-the-top portrayal of the sick and twisted Hertz. He digs into his performance with perverse glee, and it's really nice to see a villain who is actually smart, skilled, and capable instead of just plain mean and crazy. He actually gives Smith a good run for his money and is never far behind. Clive Owen is strapped with some of the worst dialog this side of a Schwarzenegger film, and Monica Belucci just seems to be embarrassed by the whole thing. Production-wise, the film is decent, but not great. The digital bullet hits look terrible and a lot of the physical stunts just don't look right. Campy ultra-violence dominates the film, and Peter Pao's dizzying cinematography creates an experience not unlike the deliriously frenzied Hong Kong action films of the 90's. I haven't decided if that's good or bad. I will admit that the inclusion of Motorhead, AC/DC, and Mötley Crüe on the soundtrack seemed oddly appropriate and made me giggle. Overall, if you like your action films fast, trashy, and brainless, "Shoot 'Em Up" might be what you're craving.