Getting worked up over Shoot ‘Em Up‘s excessive bloodshed is playing right into its hands. So instead of slamming its loud-and-proud Looney Tunes carnage as indicative of a cultural desire to view violence as detached, consequence-free spectacle, perhaps it’s better to simply ask: When action is this thoroughly, willfully divorced from any sense of gravity (both the tonal and scientific sort), how is anyone supposed to be excited by it? Aimed at hormonal, Xbox-ing 13-year-old boys who like their mayhem phony and their one-liners plentiful, Michael Davis’s film is an extended demo reel for the director’s expertise at special effects-laden gunfights, charting with much bombast, tongue-in-cheek humor, and mild sexism the efforts of mysterious man-with-a-fake-name Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) and his lactating Madonna/whore sidekick DQ (Monica Bellucci) as they attempt to protect a computer-generated infant from murderous criminal Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti). Davis makes no pretense at believability, casting his story as a superficially titillating R-rated cartoon—replete with Owen comically chomping on a big (and deadly) carrot and Giamatti fuming at his wascally adversary like a sadistic Elmer Fudd—and there’s an undeniable verve to his go-for-broke set pieces, which mainly revolve around Smith heroically cutting down hordes of faceless enemies amid wacko situations such as childbirth (he severs the umbilical cord with a bullet), skydiving, and screwing DQ (“Talk about shooting your load,” he quips). This anything-goes approach to combat, when coupled with outlandish western-noir affectations, intermittently amuses, even if Davis’s aspirations to John Woo-ish poetry fall decidedly short. Buried beneath its avalanche of firefights lies an ignorable conspiracy involving a U.S. senator, a covert fertility clinic hidden above a heavy metal club, bone marrow transplants, and the second amendment. However, though this gun-crazy film recognizes the irony of presenting weapons manufacturers as bad guys, its pervasive self-consciousness eventually makes it feel like just a big, empty, albeit mildly diverting, joke. And while Shoot ‘Em Up successfully replicates the rhythm and energy of a first-person shooter video game, it forgets—or cares to ignore the fact—that video games are always more fun to play than to simply watch.
- Michael Davis
- Michael Davis
- Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti, Greg Bryk, Stephen McHattie
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: