Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) dir. Michael Davis
Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Belluci
To all action directors out there, please put a stop to using ‘double-gun’ action sequences – please! In the late 80’s/early 90’s John Woo took gun fights to a new level of violence – a slo-motion choreographed dance of bullets, explosions and blood. Since then virtually every gun battle has to figure in an actor, and to quote “Hot Fuzz”, ‘brandishing two guns, whilst jumping in the air’.
Michael Davis’ “Shoot ‘Em Up” takes the John Woo influence beyond the mere double-gun thing and makes an entire movie out it. Considering the entire film was written around the gun battles, I have to judge it on that. The film is audacious, in-your-face, and unabashedly reverential to John Woo’s films. I admired the energy and genuine joy of action filmmaking on display but I was disappointed because the action sequences fell way behind compared to the glorifying beauty of Woo’s violent choreography.
The film is structured around a dozen set pieces barely hanging onto a plot about a politician, a baby, and gun company. The singularly-named Smith (Clive Owen) is the reluctant hero who interrupts a murder of a nursing mother. The mother dies and Smith takes the child to safety. He soon discovers the baby is wanted by an evil group of gun-toting criminals led by the wise-cracking Hertz (Paul Giamatti). Smith employs the help of local prostitute Donna Quintano who specializes in lactation fetish. While Donna feeds the baby Smith fights off the bad guys.
The film is consciously in-your-face and tries hard to push the boundaries of decency. The baby is treated like a briefcase full of money as it’s grabbed, tossed around, driven over and shot at numerous times without any harm. There’s also a sex scene which has Clive Owen doing the nasty with Monica Belluci, shooting the bad guys who have invaded the room and bringing Belluci to orgasm a couple times as well. That’s talent.
The actors deserve most of the credit, because without the A-List credibility of Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti the film would simply have been a festival of bullets. But the mere presence of these two great actors makes the film watchable beyond the action.
Much has been made of writer/director Michael Davis’s ‘overnight’ success. Indeed he sketched and animated all his action scenes as a pitch to New Line to finance the film. But Davis also had five other low budget feature films under his belt as well as a relationship with USC buddy and blockbuster producer Don Murphy. The shepherding of this relationship is what got the film made.
Davis has some skills and the cinema joie-de-vivre of a Robert Rodriguez. I certainly look forward to his next film. As for “Shoot ‘Em Up” I’d rather watch “Hard Boiled” for the 25th time.
“Shoot ‘Em Up” is available this week from New Line Home Entertainment and Alliance Films. Buy it here: Shoot 'Em Up