Review: ‘Shoot Em Up’

The cast alone makes it worth seeing this semi-serious satire of cowboy diplomacy action flicks.

Clive Owen stars as “Smith,” a mysterious figure with a hero complex, expert marksmanship, and a predisposition to gnawing on carrots. Paul Giamatti plays Hertz, a hitman with a team of limitless thugs that can do anything but kill a tiny infant that Smith is determined to protect at any cost, even if he doesn’t know why. Monica Bellucci plays Donna, a gold-hearted hooker in the right place at the wrong time that neither infants nor grown men can look away from. Heroes win, bad guys die, and lots of guns go off… was there something else you wanted?

“My god. Do we really suck or is this guy really that good?” This is the lament of Mr. Hertz, and for good reason, too. Clive Owen’s hero Mr. Smith uses bullets the way MacGyver usdes a pocket knife to do just about anything he needs: open doors, pick locks, spin merry-go-rounds, whatever. Smith is like Owen’s character from Sin City but without even a hint of seriousness; Mr. Hertz dubs him Owen as “Mr. Hero” while wallowing in his own black-hatted villainy. The theme is consistent throughout: none of the players are innocent here, absolutely everyone has a gun, and none of it should be taken seriously.

All the classic scenes are here, begged and borrowed from years of trilogies and thrillers. From the Lethal Weapon series to Die Hard to Ah-nold action theater, no gun barrel is left unturned. And someone’s even done enough of their homework to cook up a hokey conspiracy plot involving a secret breeding project, US congressmen, and NRA supporters. The only bad thing about the film is not only how dangerously close it hit home but that it nearly takes itself seriously enough to become precisely what it’s making fun of… almost, but not quite.

It’s going to be hard coming up with any film with a higher body count than this involving only conventional weapons instead of weapons of mass destruction. Better yet, even the characters are keenly aware of the absurdity of it all, with Giamatti literally saying exactly what we’re all thinking at any given moment. There’s no spoiler to give away as I tell you that the good guys win and the bad guys lose, yet the real entertainment is in how it all gets done. Not as bloody or gory as it could have been, but let’s just say that, when skydiving without a parachute, it’s best to avoid falling into nearby helicopters. Enjoy it now and forget it later, kinda like those over-priced snacks at the concession stand.

(a three skull recommendation out of four)

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