Sunday, August 5, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up advance movie review

After ComicCon on Thursday night July 26, hundreds of fans and I caught a special advance screening of the upcoming action film Shoot 'Em Up. Michael Davis and Clive Owen were on hand to answer questions and give some insight about the film just before the showing.

Action fans will definitely eat up the kinetic film with a constant stream of frenzied shoot-outs with a unique plot going above the synopsis of average action flicks: Clive Owen (star of Sin City and BMW Films: The Hire) stars as a carrot-wielding loner known only as Mr. Smith who gets caught protecting a newborn baby from a cynical hit man Mr. Hertz (the always great Paul Giamatti of Sideways). To take care of the baby, Mr. Smith enlists the help of DQ (the Matrix Reloaded's Monica Bellucci) a prostitute catering to a lactating fetish. The newly-formed, unlikely family must find out why the baby is being chased while constantly running from Mr. Hertz and his endless supply of gunmen.

Beneath the surface is a convoluted and unique story with engaging characters and witty dialog, yet it definitely takes backseat due to the high quality of the action. In fact, writer and director Michael Davis presented the concept to studios and faced constant rejection because of the seemingly shallow plot's face value. But it wasn't until he put together a 17 minute animated reel of key action scenes that the movie was green lit.

Predictability has been the bane of most films of the genre in recent years, but because of the immense creativity of the action scenes, Shoot 'Em Up delivers what most gun-crazy action movie fans have been craving for. In the tradition of the all out gun play of classic John Woo films like Hard Boiled and following in the adrenaline stylized footsteps of films such as Crank and Smokin' Aces, Shoot 'Em Up also adds some of the most unexpected shoot-outs with a consistent flow of fast-paced editing throughout.

The violence, sex, and humor all take extra steps, or rather, GIANT LEAPS to levels that you probably wouldn't expect. Some moments often taken too far to the point of ridiculousness but they're done so extremely well that all disregards of realism are forgiven and appreciated for providing satisfying entertainment value.

*SLIGHT SPOILERS* Without giving too much away but there seems to always be some off-kilter quirk to every situation in the movie. For example the gun fights have some sort of gimmick to add to the fun: a shoot-out during a baby delivery, a shoot-out during a car chase, a sniper shoot-out in a playground, a shoot-out during sex, a shoot-out while skydiving, and a Home Alone-inspired booby trap-filled shoot-out in a gun factory.. just to name A FEW. *SPOILERS END HERE* To top it off the plentiful shoot-outs all end with climactic sight gags sure make its target audience satisfied with a laugh or awe of the absurdity. Each time, I had to pick up my jaw from the bottom of my seat as I contemplated how much each the scene ROCKED.

For the most part the stellar cast is top notch in this type of film. Clive Owen is perfectly cast as the typical suave bad ass and unlikely hero. As Mr. Smith, Owen comes off as a natural whether it comes to spitting one-liners while unfazed at the face of adversary, snapping witty remarks throughout, or shooting, flipping, and sliding acrobatically during the action scenes. If it will teach a lesson to those that need lessons taught, this character will draw every line to accomplish it. You'll love Mr. Smith if you hate to see drivers that don't signal or parents that beat their kids in public. He reacts to things in ways everyone has wanted to but had the sense to not do them!

Monica Bellucci's portrayal of DQ is excellent in bringing warmth to the character. Peppered by her exotic Italian looks and accent, the chemistry between her and the British accented Owen is exciting and convincing. With DQ you genuinely care about what happens to the character because of the humanity she shows trying to take care of the newborn Oliver and trying to care for the even Mr. Smith herself.

With such strong protagonists you would need an conversely evil adversary and thats where Paul Giamatti steals the show. His character, Mr. Hertz, provides most of the dark humor and is such an evil bastard you'll actually grow to love him due to Giamatti's excellent portrayal. As he matches wits with Mr. Smith, Mr. Hertz in turn matches gun prowess whether he wields a sniper rifle or his signature Desert Eagle with a custom fingerprint identifier, all while being annoyed constantly from the cell phone calls of his wife. The cynical yet humanized villain is immensely fun to watch much in the vein of great cinematic bad guys like Gary Oldman's portrayal of the crazed cop Stansfeld in Leon: The Professional.

Strange to say but the real star of the movie is the vision-enhancing orange vegetable, the carrot! Never in a film have carrots been so important, so hilarious, or so awesome! When Mr. Smith takes bites off of a carrot in a calm after the storm the stock of adrenaline that viewers have gained will inspire them to stock up on carotene. In fact, after the premiere the audience was treated to fresh carrots! Lets just say after this movie you'll never guess how bad ass eating carrots can be.

Along with the plentiful homages to Hong Kong cinema greats like John Woo and spaghetti westerns, there are many allusions to Clive Owen's trademark of driving Beemers in films, such as his stints in BMW Films as well as a hitman in Bourne Identity. There even is a nod to Owen's potential as a previous successor to Pierce Brosnan's James Bond that fans will definitely eat up as this film comes as perfect example of what he would've been like as the next Bond.

After watching this movie with fellow action aficionados it was unanimous that our socks had been knocked off. Also worth mentioning was the very vocal and energetic Comic Con audience laughing, cheering, and giving ovation to every awesome scene (and were scenes of awesomeness plentiful!).

As far as for who the film is for, just watch the trailer. Its definitely a movie that gives so much fan service to action film fans that anyone out of that circle can instantly dismiss the film as typical action fare or even as a 'bad movie'. Not so when you put into account how clever and how deep both action, style, and plot go with Shoot 'Em Up. However its very rare that a film had the whole audience's blood pumping NONSTOP throughout. Not to say that the film is perfect, but as an action film you'll definitely come out satisfied. Even during the pauses, the direction, art direction, and cinematography is so sharp and stylized that it keeps the intrigue going. Each metal and electronica song in the soundtrack paint and frame the action perfectly. I don't think I've seen better use of Motorhead's Ace of Spades or Motley Crue's Kickstart My Heart in a film. Some films "cut to the chase" but the whole entire film is THE chase.

Movies are supposed to entertain and Shoot 'Em Up goes above and beyond to meet that expectation. I applaud Michael Davis in both having the immense passion for his story and the efforts he put into directing such a sharp, exciting movie. Each and every scene will had me sitting in my chair in disbelief wondering why the heck I haven't been this much entertained. I can't say I've had this much DAMN FUN watching a movie in a long time! As I told my friend that I was going to post a review here, he told me I should write this article as a one word review: AWESOME. There's no better way to put it!

So stock up on your carrots and mark your calendars on September 7th!

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