Glorifying violence – and perhaps even depravity – Shoot ‘Em Up certainly revels in the fact that its nothing more than a stunt-laden, high-octane, 21st Century Warner Bros. cartoon. Paul Giamatti’s hitman, like Elmer Fudd before him, carries a big gun and certainly doesn’t let a thing like wounded pride get in his way. Clive Owen’s good-guy, Smith, bounces around and eat carrots continually like the ancestor his character is derived from.
Pure, unadulterated action keeps time with Paul Haslinger’s rock-n-roll rhythms coupled with the likes of Nirvana, AC/DC, Motorhead and Motley Crue as the ridiculous action and well-choreographed stunts builds on, yet also mocks, all the cinematic gifts once presented by the Matrix.
Owen’s Smith makes a perfectly rascally rogue. Likeable with his own set of morals and is even fatherly as he invincibly flies between bullets with Oliver, his surrogate son, ironically trying to find a safe haven for the little guy.
When not racing, diving, driving or shooting, however, the pace of the film dies in a manner that the two main characters do not. A little background is given hinting at Smith’s time as a Black Ops agent and the tragedy that haunts him. Giamatti’s Hertz was a one-time profiler. But none of that information is confirmed as it isn’t needed. Smith, like Clint Eastwood’s Man-With-No-Name, does not need a past as he’s clearly a creature of the present. Such in-between scenes do nothing more than create a lag as the viewer anxiously awaits the next scene of action.
Another detouring element is the inclusion of Monica Bellucci’s character, Donna. Aside from the cheesecake factor that Bellucci is flatteringly good at, allowing a girl into this guy’s action world detracts both Smith’s already responsibility-laden mission as well as the plot.
Shoot ‘Em Up, just like any video game, has each scene’s stakes getting higher and higher until the final meeting with the big bad boss and the film’s farcical end. Writer/Director Michael Davis obviously wanted to give audiences a treat where a thinking man could unplug and enjoy mindless fun with a story that doesn’t make much sense to begin with. Davis simply needs to learn not to let go of the accelerator in the case of a sequel.