Presenting the recipe for a Shoot 'Em Up cocktail: Mix together a shot each of John Woo, Chuck Jones, and Run Lola Run, a dash of Sergio Leone and the Coen Brothers, add a twist of John Cassavetes' Gloria, shake vigorously and pour.Michael Davis
' Shoot 'Em Up is a giddy, deranged, pumped-up theme park ride in Bullet Land where the bullets fly like rain, bodies drop like hail, and carrots are used as lethal weapons.
Shoot 'Em Up grabs you by the throat, commands you to have fun and wills you not take anything that follows seriously enough to worry about. If you don't get the idea from the first frame of the opening credits, when the New Line Cinema
logo is shot to hell, Davis makes sure to drive the point home in the opening shot as Clive Owen
glares into the camera in close-up and takes a bite out of a carrot as if he is chomping off a chaw of tobacco, like an end-of-the-world Bugs Bunny. Article continues below
Owen is Mr. Smith, "the angriest man in the world." And he just gets angrier as he munches on his carrot, waiting for a bus, but is forced to reluctantly come to the aid of a pregnant woman about to give birth while being pursued by gunmen. Within minutes, Smith is delivering the woman's child while simultaneously gunning down hordes of killers. After the new mother is killed in the bloodbath, Smith's humanity kicks in and, shooting off the umbilical cord with his pistol, he tucks the newborn infant under his arm like a football and races through another pack of assassins in pursuit of a wet nurse. The wet nurse is found in the voluptuous form of DQ (Monica Bellucci
), a prostitute acquaintance. Soon enough the rapidly formed nuclear family proceeds to make tracks as the bad guy throng, headed by cold-blooded killer and henpecked husband, Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti
), the kind of bad guy who admonishes victims by saying things like, "And let that be a reminder never to fool me again," yet accepting cell phone calls from his wife in the midst of a murder spree, telling her, "I'll have to call you back, honey. I'm busy."
Davis wastes no time driving the film forward to his set pieces, scenes that stand out like musical numbers in an MGM
spectacular. The sequences top one another in sheer enervating nuttiness. After the opening bullet-ridden birth production number, Davis ups the screwball ante with a scene of the infant on a playground carousel, Smith shooting at the carousel to keep it spinning, so Hertz cannot grab the baby. Then, Davis has Smith and DQ in the clinch, making love as killers enter the bedroom, and the two lovers are forced to literally rock 'n' roll out of the way of the blazing bullets while Smith, one arm around DQ and the other wielding a gun, mows down the shooters. The insanity culminates with a mid-air scene of parachutists in free-fall shooting each other on the way down.
Davis is assisted in his mayhem with keen, acid-shark cinematography by Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Peter Amundson's flash-dazzle editing, and a throbbing, heart-thumping headbanger's music parade by Paul Haslinger and a heavy metal greatest hits collection of Wolfmother, Motorhead, Iggy Pop, and a battery of other headache inducers.
Shoot 'Em Up is not all junk food; in its own subterranean way, Shoot 'Em Up explores love, sex, and death in a venal world, but you'll forget all about it during the adrenaline rush. In Shoot 'Em Up, Davis delivers the tonic, and it's up to you to drink it down.