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September 15, 2007

Shoot 'Em Up

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Michael Davis - 2007
New Line Cinema 35mm Film

Shoot 'Em Up would have been a far better movie had as much attention been spent on the dialogue as had been expended on the visual aspects of the film. The film is a terrifically realized series of set pieces punctuated by some cringe-inducing patter held together by a story that makes little sense. I can understand why there has been negative response to this film, yet the action choreography and cinematography are so much better than such crowd pleasers like the Rush Hour series.

Shoot 'Em Up more closely resembles the kind of films that Jason Statham usually stars in that I was wondering if Clive Owen was actually the second choice. There is a scene with Owen sliding on his back on a floor with an oil spill, shooting at the bad guys, that was similar to a scene in The Transporter. Similarly, the almost nonsensical plot is reminiscent of Crank, a film of similar visual bravura and little logic. The major difference is that Owen is complimented by cast that includes Paul Giamatti as the chief bad guy and Monica Bellucci as the girl, plus a supporting group of players with the kind of faces usually seen in comic book villains.

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While a couple of critics have noted that the image of Owen with a gun in one hand and a baby in his other arm recalls Chow Yun-Fat in Hard Boiled, it should also be noted that Shoot 'Em Up was photographed by Peter Pau. How much of the credit for the look of the film should go to Pau may be up for debate, but considering that Pau was the cinematographer for Woo's The Killers, Ronnie Yu's Bride with White Hair, Tsui Hark's The Chinese Feast and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon might easily explain why the action sequences look so good. That Pau has also directed films in Hong Kong suggests that he may have had a more active role in production of Shoot 'Em Up than his screen credit would indicate.

Unlike most Hong Kong films, Shoot 'Em Up does get uncomfortably misogynistic. Writer-director Michael Davis displays most of his venom regarding women through Giamatti's character who tells a joke that the difference between a woman and a gun is that you can put a silencer on a gun, burns Bellucci's thighs with the hot end of his pistol, and has a running gag involving his wife calling him at inappropriate times. There is one undeniably funny scene when Owen spots a woman spanking her son, and after lecturing the woman on the cruelty of corporal punishment starts spanking the mother, much to the glee of her son. More frequently, Davis' idea of wit amounts to a male adolescent's idea of a double entrendre.

At one point, Paul Giamatti mentions James Cagney to his crew. Michael Davis might be wise to pay closer attention the such films as Public Enemy and White Heat. While the Warner Brother classic gangster films were directed by the visually able William Wellman and Raoul Walsh, the screenplays were written by guys who learned how to coin phrases as journalists and playwrights. The reason why the old gangster films are classic is as much because of the great dialogue that complimented the visuals, which is why these films will be remembered after Shoot 'Em Up is forgotten.

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Posted by peter at September 15, 2007 11:49 AM


I saw this movie on 23/9/07, and the one scene that I liked was when Monica Bellucci's character was lying on the bed, and a man's head came up, with milk dribbling from his mouth(she was breastfeeding him) - that was one of the sexiest movie scenes ever!

Posted by: Mark Glaude at September 24, 2007 09:21 AM

this film was exellent

Posted by: robert at September 19, 2008 05:29 AM