Shoot ‘Em Up is, if nothing more, the action-flick lover’s wet dream. It takes every James Bond, John Woo and Jerry Bruckheimer film, removes the frivolous dialogue and character building, and pumps itself up on steroids, leaving the viewer with almost all adrenaline and carnage. It’s hard to believe, but even with its 86-minute runtime literally 65 minutes are shoot-outs and other forms of violence, but done so as to not cause the movie to be repetitive and a bore.
The film’s brilliance comes forth in its ability to rip on the very genre it imitates. Sure, you’ve seen this movie before in various Luc Besson and Robert Rodriguez films, but the director (Michael Davis) knows far better than to play this movie seriously. He mocks its dense plots, in one instance presenting an over–simplistic, yet totally ridiculous storyline involving an anti-gun senator needing a bone marrow transplant from a baby so he can live (as soon as the issue is resolved, it’s completely discarded).
The film also makes fun of the stereotypes of the genre, including Smith’s — the ominous protagonist (Clive Owen) – meta-comments about the action genre itself:
“Don’t you hate it when, in the action movie, the hero only calls one news station, and it turns out they’re in on the plot? So I decided to call all the news stations.” Shoot ‘Em Up even satirizes character buildup to the point where all we know about Smith is that “Smith” is not his real name. Any hint of the character’s past is insubstantial.
The film is like watching a comic book on crack — it’s filled with over-the-top action sequences that wouldn’t be plausible, even in a Roger Moore Bond film. One scene that comes to mind includes Smith flying down the middle of a five-story circular staircase, literally shooting and killing 50 men in a good 10 seconds, yet managing not to crush the baby he’s carrying as he hits the tile floor. Scenes like this run rampant through the film. However, it helps that actors such as Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Monica Bellucci are at the helm, adding quirkiness and humor to roles that, if played by anyone else, could have easily been ruined.
Shoot ‘Em Up is well worth a peek, whether one is looking for a hardcore action flick or straight-up satire of a genre that well deserves it.