Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Before gawking at the bone-snapping mayhem of The Raid 2, get your adrenaline fix with some ultraviolent action movies.
Shoot ’Em Up (2007)
Even before its self-conscious title splatters across the screen, Shoot ’Em Up announces that it will pursue a deranged platonic ideal of the action movie. It opens on a man known only as Smith (Clive Owen) sitting at a bus stop on a desolate street; mere minutes later, he’s coming to the aid of a pregnant woman pursued by violent thugs. He delivers her baby with a storm of bullets flying overhead—the kind of audacious stunt even the cheekier action movies tend to save for the climax. Smith then takes it upon himself to protect the infant, and the rest of the movie is essentially an extended shoot-out, pausing only for the characters to be chased to different locations while exchanging middling hard-boiled quips.
Speaking of which, Hard Boiled seems like an obvious influence on the movie’s imperiled-baby and physics-defying cartoon stunts. So, too, does Bugs Bunny: Smith munches on carrots throughout the movie, even asking, “What’s up, doc?” early on. Shoot ’Em Up also resembles a bizarre hybrid of Children Of Men (in which Owen aids another pregnant woman) and Crank (in which over-the-top atrocities are committed), though the year-earlier release dates of those films make actual influence unlikely. But Shoot ’Em Up most strongly recalls, in ways both fascinating and repulsive, the hypothetical action movie countless 14-year-old boys have half-written in their heads. This may be the least diluted expression of addled teen-male movie fantasy to actually make it to the screen this side of Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.
The fantasizer in question here is writer/director Michael Davis. His little-seen teen comedy, Eight Days A Week, has a similarly adolescent sensibility, but the complete divorce from even a cinematic version of reality works better in a movie where Clive Owen more than once uses a carrot as a lethal weapon. He also shoots out a car windshield so he can crash himself through another vehicle’s windshield and shoot everyone inside, sets up a series of rope-triggered gun traps, and has sex while engaging in a shoot-out. Davis devises such inspired gunplay that his film becomes a last word of sorts on movies about—in the parlance of Hot Fuzz—firing two guns whilst jumping through the air. Shoot ’Em Up is thus worthwhile for both its individual action sequences and for its meta commentary (accidental or not) on the impulses that fuel balletic action-movie carnage.
Availability: Shoot ’Em Up is available on DVD and Blu-ray, which can be obtained from Netflix, and to rent or purchase through the major digital services.