The action film is a staple of American cinema. Action movies are best when they have very little plot and high-adrenaline shootouts and fights. However, today, most action films try to have both, and most fail miserably. There is hope for the genre, though, because every year, one movie comes out that reminds us just how enjoyable these films can be. Last year, it was “Crank.” This year, it is “Shoot ‘Em Up.” “Shoot ‘Em Up” reminds us just how fun action movies can be. From the first frame to the last, this film is a no-holds-barred, adrenaline thrill ride. The plot is very thin, but that is ok, because going into “Shoot ‘Em Up,” the audience does not want much of a plot, just endless action. Clive Owen (“Sin City”) and Paul Giamatti (“Sideways”) play characters outside of those that we have seen in recent films, especially Giamatti. Filled with witty one-liners, senseless violence and some very outlandish scenes, this action-packed film has everything one would wish for in an action film.
“Shoot ‘Em Up” is the biggest guilty-pleasure movie of the year, for it is not a great film, but it is certainly enjoyable.
There is a plot in “Shoot ‘Em Up,” albeit an inane one. However, a moviegoer who pays for “Shoot ‘Em Up” should not go in looking for a deep film. The plot revolves around Smith (Owen), an angry loner who, at the beginning of the film, finds himself the protector of a newborn child who some want dead. When Mr. Smith delivers the child in the middle of a gunfight, he soon discovers that the child is the target of a shadowy team of hired-guns, led by Hertz (Giamatti). Smith then teams up with a prostitute named DQ (Monica Bellucci) to solve the mystery about why everyone wants this child dead.
If a person went into “Shoot ‘Em Up” wanting a smart action film, they would be very disappointed. Thankfully, most people who see this film will not be looking for that. The action scenes in the film are over-the-top, so much so that they become laughable. This may sound negative, but it actually makes this film extremely enjoyable. To call this film violent is an understatement, for this film may contain some of the most violent action sequences in modern film history; it is so intense that it would make John Woo blush. Blood splatters everywhere throughout the 90-minute running time, which perfectly accompanies the action scenes. The opening of the film has Mr. Smith shooting at people while trying to deliver a child. Later, there is a scene where Smith fights off enemies while falling from a plane. However, the most outlandish scene of all shows Smith shooting at enemies while having sex. These sequences are great fun, despite how ridiculous they may seem.
Thrown in throughout the film are incredible one-liners that are sure to entertain. For example, before Smith goes on his opening rampage, he kills a man by stabbing him through the head with a carrot, after which he quips, “Eat your vegetables.” Later, there is a car chase scene that culminates with Smith flying through the windshield of the other car and laying his enemies to waste, to which he comments, “So much for seat belts.” These one-liners are very clich, but are they a downfall of the film? No, in fact they make the film that much more enjoyable, for this film exists to display the clichs that are repeated countless times in action films.
As for the performances, they are mediocre, with the exception of Giamatti. Giamatti plays a great villain, which is something we have never seen him play. His character is smart, but pure evil and the audience cannot help but detest him. This is a complete about-face for Giamatti, who tends to play more dramatic characters that are searching for something meaningful. It is nice to see Giamatti play a character different from what we have seen him play in the past.
On the other hand, Owen is slightly dull. Save for his one-liners, Owen’s character has very little dialogue. All we see is him being angry. While “Shoot ‘Em Up” is not a film where one would expect depth, some semblance of character development would have been welcome. In the end, his character is very one dimensional, but entertaining nonetheless.
Another downfall of the film is the fact that it is very misogynistic. Most, if not all, of Hertz’s victims are women, killed in extremely violent ways. Also, all the female characters shown in the film are prostitutes. I was taken aback by the great disregard for women that was in this film. This disregard for women is something all too prevalent in action films. However, since this film exists as an exploitation of action movies’ clichs, I should have expected this.
“Shoot ‘Em Up” is a beautiful, violent ballet. Its lack of plot is a welcome change from action movies that try to cram movies with plot, when all we really want is intense action. Minus the misogynistic undertones and the lack of some character development, “Shoot ‘Em Up” is a no-holds-barred, adrenaline pumping action movie that displays every action movie clich that one would expect. Not a great film, but certainly an entertaining one.
Chris Bashore is a fourth-year student majoring in Political Science. He can be reached at CB588901@wcupa.edu.