The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Shoot 'Em Up (2007)
Director: Michael Davis

review by J.C. Hartley

Clive Owen has denied he was ever in line to be the next James Bond. Perhaps it was all down to the pictures of him in a tuxedo for Croupier, perhaps it was his performance as the taciturn chauffeur in Gosford Park, a performance that by a sideways leap suggested to this reviewer that rather than attempting to allow Bond to keep pace with contemporary life, they should really go back to the books and set the films in the 1950s, when chauvinism and the casual killing of foreign nationals had its place. If Clive Owen had been offered the role of 007, and his decision to turn it down had been a fear of being typecast, then his subsequent embracing of action roles would appear to be an example of sheer perversity.

At the beginning of A Fistful of Dollars, the 'Man with No Name', while watering his horse, observes the casual abuse of a child; in the traditional western this would have been the spur to wrongdoers being chastised, but the film signalled the cynical intent of its hero by having him ride on. Of course, the hero of the 'Dollars westerns did the right thing eventually, and turned a profit too. At one point in Shoot 'Em Up, the armaments' manufacturer Hammerson (Stephen McHattie, A History Of Violence) asks Hertz (Paul Giamatti, The Illusionist), if their opponent Smith (Clive Owen, Children Of Men) is really the Man With No Name, riding in on a pale horse to clean up the town.

If that is the intention of the film then Smith is not driven by the profit motive but in reaction to the things he hates. The film opens with him sitting at a bus stop munching a carrot, a healthy alternative to Man With No Name's cigarillos perhaps? A pregnant woman, in an advanced stage of labour, staggers by pursued by a gun-toting thug, Smith sighs heavily and goes to the woman's assistance. Smith shoots several people, delivers the child but is unable to save the mother. His later attempts to off-load the baby are foiled when Hertz attempts to shoot it.

Smith seeks out Donna, a prostitute who has recently lost a child and is still lactating, something that attracts a certain type of client. Donna refuses to wet-nurse the baby but after Smith saves her from Hertz they go on the run together. Fleeing from Hertz and his army of killers Smith and Donna and baby Oliver, named after Oliver Twist - a book Smith "didn't hate," - are drawn together. They discover why the same man impregnated three women, and why Hammerson and Hertz killed the women, and want to kill Oliver the last surviving child. The exposition is made without the action ever letting up, and Clive Owen, in the words of the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles, gets to kill "more men than Cecil B. DeMille."

Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen in Shoot 'Em Up

This film is horribly violent, much of it is comic book stylised violence and some of it makes you wince with revulsion, providing of course that exposure to cinematic violence hasn't inured you to it. There is a very silly freefall gun-battle, and a car chase that makes you wish you saw stunts like that in James Bond. What saves it from being just a shoot 'em up is the charm of the leads. Owen manages to give a bit of cranky depth to what is pretty much a pastiche of a tough-guy, Monica Belluci (The Brothers Grimm) as Donna, is beautiful and the heart of the picture, and Paul Giamatti obviously has a lot of fun playing a bad guy who is a violently sociopathic version of Wallace Shawn's Vizzini in The Princess Bride. Best of all this film is very short. Why does every film now have to stretch to two hours when the average attention span is 90 minutes? And the unravelling of the plot and occasional attempts at some character depth don't mean a halt to the action; Smith and Donna share a love scene and Smith still manages to kill a half dozen guys.

The film earns a high rating because it succeeds on its own terms, mindless violence/ action. It is full of violent action and you don't particularly need to think why. It may be a scathing attack on American gun laws as enshrined in the Second Amendment, but only in the same way that Dawn Of The Dead was a satire on rampant consumerism. And be warned, Smith is much deadlier with a carrot than Jason Bourne is with a rolled up copy of Heat.
Shoot 'Em Up

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send it

home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2008 Pigasus Press