By Neil Richter
Execute your disbeliefÉ
with a hollowpoint—make that half a dozen hollowpoints. No, make that half a dozen hollowpoints
fired from the modified barrel of an Uzi/missile launcher combo mounted onto
the grille of a humvee. This is Shoot
ÔEm Up, possibly the most purely honest movie I have ever seen. Yes, honest.
Not thrilling or sexy or funny or enlightening, just honest. You see, Shoot ÔEm Up promises the audience a feature length running gun-battle
with some wisecracks, a baby, and possibly a sex scene or two thrown in for
good measure. Well, thatÕs exactly
what they get. This may seem like
faint praise, but in an era where films continually fail to live up to
overblown advance praise or trailers that give away all the best parts, itÕs a
bit astonishing to watch a film which sets a certain standard for itself, then
plugs away until it reaches its goal before ending with a self-satisfied nudge
and a wink. Many filmmakers could
learn a lesson from director Michael DavisÕ creation. I find it necessary to defend this filmÕs small but ironclad
virtues for two reasons. The first
is that a lot of people out there are going to watch it and be disgusted. The second is that the film flopped its
first weekend out of the gate (understandably) and IÕm really pulling for it to
reach its audience on video.
address the first issue with a simple statement: If this film offends you, then you shouldnÕt have walked
into a movie called Shoot ÔEm Up
in the first place. Blame
yourself, not the film. Mr.
BeanÕs Holiday is playing across the
hall; maybe youÕll get a kick out of that. Shoot ÔEm Up is
enormously offensive in about a dozen
different ways, but the beauty is in the fact that Davis has announced his
intentions of making a hard-core movie for hard-core action fans. His audience doesnÕt care about the
lactating hookers, or the casual brutality, or the reckless disregard for the
safety of an infant, not to mention the rampant misogyny. It all goes with the territory. This isnÕt another Live Free or Die
Hard, neutered with a pg-13 rating
despite the fact that the Die Hard
franchise is based around a word that youÕre simply not aloud to say in a pg-13
film (give you a hint: Yippie
Ki-YayÉ). This is the kind of
grisly action film they used to churn out back in the 80Õs and early 90Õs, only
with more violence and a refreshing self-awareness. This is a film that has a pretty good idea just how stupid
it really is, and revels in it. If
you donÕt like it, donÕt watch it.
Plenty of people do, and occasionally IÕm one of them. WeÕre not crazy and weÕre not pushed to
do bad things by watching naughty films.
We donÕt take this stuff seriously. ItÕs just that
sometimes nothing hits the spot like the simple pleasures of a Hollywood
gunbattle. Thus concludes my rant against those who blame this film for being
ÔamoralÕ or ÔirresponsibleÕ
second point: Of course it
flopped. A film that tips the
scales so far in one direction, to sacrifice plot, character development, even
simple logic in the pursuit of its own bullet-riddled place in filmdom is bound
to appeal to the narrowest margins.
I will tell you straight out:
in many ways it is simply not a good film. The script is godawful. The one-liners even worse. Every actor except the two leads is completely wasted. Even the action at times seems
standard. But dammit, I canÕt
bring myself to hate a film that features a shootout taking place in the middle
of a skydive, and IÕm sure there are a lot of you out there who would pay money
to see such a thing. There are a
lot of us that enjoy movies that are big, dumb, and violent every now and
then. Shoot ÔEm Up is perhaps one of the purest fixes for this craving
that I have ever witnessed. Thus,
it has a place at the table. All I
want to do is pull the chair out for it.
two leads are probably the only reason normal mainstream filmgoers would find
themselves viewing something like Shoot ÔEm Up. Clive
Owen and Paul Giamatti commit themselves fully to this lunatic enterprise. Giamatti in particular shines as a
villain who can only be described as a perverse live-action version of Elmer
Fudd. HeÕs almost unfathomably
evil and I love him all the more for it.
For his role, Clive Owen
turns his back on all the praise he has received for ÔproperÕ films like Children
of Men and Closer as the carrot chomping hero (catching a motif here?)
who manages to kill an army of henchman while doing the following
activities: running, jumping,
skydiving, having sex, driving, stumbling around with broken digits, and
snacking on carrots. Now thatÕs multitasking.
Together, they form something approaching the beating heart of this
exercise in absolute mayhem.
action film-fan brothers, this is the movie for you. To everyone else, stay far far away from this one.