A good action film is hard to come by. Gone are the glory days of the ’80s and early ’90s when Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone ruled theaters with movies like “The Terminator” and “Rambo.” Lately, it seems that directors cannot recapture what made those films so enjoyable. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t quit trying. With “Shoot ‘Em Up,” British film-maker Michael Davis hopes to bring these fun, mindless action flicks back to the top of the box office.
And while “Shoot ‘Em Up” definitely succeeds on the action, it’s a fun, but flawed, experience.
The movie wastes no time getting right to the action. Smith (Clive Owen) is a mysterious, shady derelict with no past. One night, while sitting at a bus stop, he encounters a pregnant woman being chased by a crazed gunman. Smith rescues the woman only to find out that she is going into labor. He helps deliver the baby while simultaneously fighting off swarms of armed men, all trying to kill the woman and her child. They succeed in killing the mother, but Smith manages to escape with the infant.
In desperation, he turns to the only person he knows who can help – a hooker named Donna Quintano (Monica Bellucci). Together they try to figure out who the baby and mother are while trying to escape from crazed, ex-FBI profiler Hertz (Paul Giamatti) who is determined to kill the child.
The movie’s outstanding element is the action. Honestly, it’s the only reason to see “Shoot ‘Em Up.” The movie is one extended violent gun fight, with the occasional moments of story for the viewers to catch their breath. In this case, that’s a compliment since any sort of plot would bog the film down. And while they may not be the best shoot-outs ever, they are some of the best action scenes in recent memory. At any given moment, Smith is fending off anywhere from five to 50 bad guys, usually with a gun in one hand and a baby in the other.
As the movie progresses, the action only gets more brutal, crazier and over the top, requiring the viewer to suspend all belief in the laws of physics. Characters jump off of bridges and painlessly smash through a car’s sun-roof. Vehicles collide head on as the hero glides through the windshield, unscathed, guns blazing all along. It’s this high level of absurdity that makes “Shoot ‘Em Up” work.
The reason you won’t see this film at the top of any best-action-movies list is because everything else doesn’t measure up. The story is pretty shallow, and purposely stays out of the way of the action. That is, until the end, when the plot takes a ridiculous twist. It doesn’t add anything to the film and just makes what little story there is confusing.
What’s worse is that the twist feels like it was thrown in just to set up another shoot-out sequence. Initially this may not seem like a bad idea, but when you’re forced to watch characters ramble on incoherently about something that not even the director cares about, it only drags the film down.
Not all too surprising is the fact that “Shoot ‘Em Up” is filled with cheesy one-liners that characters spout off after each gun fight. Although the dialogue is intentionally terrible, it is surprising how hard the director tries to make these lines feel cheesy and clich