Shoot 'Em Up

  • 2007-10-31
  • by Tim Ochser

TIME'S UP, DOC: Clive Owen's character dispatches a man with a carrot at the start of this high-bodycount thriller.

Director: Michael Davis

If nothing else, "Shoot 'Em Up" certainly lives up to its title. I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a body count as copious as this.
The story starts out with Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) sitting at a bus stop and nibbling on a raw carrot. When he sees a pregnant woman being chased by a thug clearly intent on hurting her, he reluctantly goes to her rescue.

He kills the man with his carrot but countless more gun-toting gangsters appear out of nowhere and start shooting at them. When the woman suddenly goes into labor, Mr Smith somehow manages to help her deliver the baby while killing all the gangsters.
It's immediately clear from this totally far-fetched beginning that "Shoot 'Em Up" is going to be an ironic, tongue-in-cheek satire, making the ensuing orgy of violence all the more enjoyable.
The carrot-loving Mr. Smith quickly realizes that somebody seriously wants the baby dead. For safekeeping he takes it to a prostitute who specializes in lactating for her nappy-wearing clients. Donna (Monica Bellucci) agrees to help although it's not long before the gangsters get to her and she is forced to go on the run with Mr. Smith and the baby.

The story is so preposterous that it's not really worth explaining. In between endless gun fights it basically revolves around a corrupt senator, a congressional vote on gun law and a baby-breeding factory to find the right bone marrow for a life-saving transplant.
But above all, it's about guns: gun culture, gun violence and gun fetishism. It savagely mocks America's relationship with guns in both the cultural and cinematic sense.
Clive Owen is perfect as the deadpan Mr. Smith. He's a sort of ascetic, misanthropic James Bond-like figure who can shoot 100 onrushing people dead while calmly nibbling on a carrot. Paul Giamatti is also impressive as the vicious crime boss leading the miniature army in pursuit of Mr. Smith, and the much built-up final showdown between the two men is extremely amusing.

"Shoot 'Em Up" is definitely not subtle but then neither is the genre it is satirizing. Its excessive violence is depicted with all the realism of a cartoon, which is pretty much spot-on in an age when ultra-violent video games and movies pass for mainstream entertainment. But, like Mr. Smith's marksmanship, the vicious satire is absolutely spot on.

Opens Nov. 2 in Latvia, Nov. 9 in Lithuania and Nov. 16 in Estonia.

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