Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci, Stephen McHattie
Director: Michael Davis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS ES 6.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1|
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 86 Minutes
Release Date: January 1, 2008

“I am dead on about who you are, right?”

“Say that again?”

“I said, I am dead…”

“Stop. That part of it you got right.”

Film **** (On the Guilty Pleasure Scale)

After seeing Smokin’ Aces early last year, I certainly thought that I had my pulp action fix for the year. I had no idea that later on in the year a movie called Shoot ‘Em Up would come along and blow me away in ways few action movies ever have. Make no mistake about it, this is the absolute best example of pure cinematic trash with a smile on its face.

First off, could such a movie have a better title than Shoot ‘Em Up? No way. Not only will any action movie addicts be sold in a heartbeat, but also a title like that pretty much tells you what kind of movie one is in store for. Not since Road House have I had such a blast watching such gloriously ridiculous entertainment.

And the movie’s opening sequence perfectly sets up exactly what kind of movie you are going to get. In the first five minutes, numerous gunmen have already been shot dead, a guy has jammed a carrot through the back of another’s head, a baby is delivered in the midst of a gunfight and the hero severs the umbilical cord with, you guessed it, a gunshot. In other words, if you can’t accept what happens in this sequence, you shouldn’t bother with the rest of the movie.

But if you’re like me, who loves a piece of well done action garbage more than anyone else, strap in for an hour and twenty five minutes of high octane, uncompromising, balls-to-the-wall bloody fun. And there’s also a great deal of laughs along the way. Without question, Shoot ‘Em Up is one movie that would be right at home in a Grindhouse theater, which is very much a compliment.

The plot, oh where to begin? A man known simply as Smith (Clive Owen) gets involved in a most extreme circumstance, against his will. After delivering a baby for a mother running from a band of aggravated gunman, led by an efficient psycho named Hertz (Paul Giamatti), Smith does what he can to get the baby to save quarters, after the mother is killed.

But that turns out to be quite a challenge, since Hertz and his men seem to pop up at Smith’s every location. With nowhere else to turn, he plans to leave the baby in the care of DQ (Monica Bellucci), a prostitute and acquaintance of Smith. Since her specialty happens to be a baby fetish with her clients, Smith thinks she’ll be an ideal caregiver.

Before long, both Smith and DQ are on the lam from Hertz and his band of hired killers. And along the way, Smith discovers some unique clues as to why the baby is targeted for death. And the plot behind that is too ludicrous for words, and would take up too much time and effort for me to explain, so I’ll just leave that for you to see.

What’s important to know, and I can’t stress this enough, is that you seriously need to suspend all the disbelief in the world in order to enjoy this movie. This is a movie that makes Face/Off seem more realistic. It’s absolutely clear that writer/director Michael Davis was aiming to make the most graphically violent live action version of a Looney Tunes cartoon, with Clive Owen as Bugs Bunny (Smith chews on a carrot in nearly every scene) and Paul Giamatti as Elmer Fudd. Both Owen and Giamatti look like they’re having the time of their lives in this movie.

And in terms of action, the movie never knows when to quit. This is gunfight galore if there ever was one. The movie isn’t afraid to take movie action to the heights of absurdity. That notion is confirmed by the one of the most incredible action scenes I’ve ever seen, where Smith leaps out of a plane with a parachute and engages in a mid-air shootout with Hertz’ gunmen, with AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood” blasting on the soundtrack. What more could you ask for?

Guilty pleasures don’t get any better than Shoot ‘Em Up. I know that some of you may think I should have my movie-reviewing license revoked for giving a movie like this such a high rating. But I respect action movies when they’re done right, and I respect movies that go for broke with a big smile on its face. We don’t get many movies like this anymore, and in both regards this movie is a dead on trashy masterpiece.

Video ****

The movie carries with it a raw visual style that perfectly matches the gritty pulp qualities, and this release from New Line is dead on terrific in delivering a tremendous picture quality. The anamorphic picture is bright, crisp and loaded with detail throughout, and the color quality is nothing short than astounding!

Audio ****

What a year this has already become for stunning sounding releases. The 5.1 EX and 6.1 DTS tracks both deliver in what is certain to get mentioned in the DMC Awards’ Best Sound category at the end of year. Right from the beginning, the sound packs a continuous punch with endless action and a genius assortment of rock music. Lock and load this disc in your player and prepare to duck and dodge the tremendous firepower!

Features ***1/2

Perfect arsenal of extras on this New Line release, which includes a fun commentary track with writer/director Michael Davis, Deleted Scenes with optional commentary, an engaging five-part documentary titled “Ballet of Bullets: The Making of Shoot ‘Em Up”, original animatics and trailers.


Shoot ‘Em Up is gloriously trashy fun, and doesn’t attempt to be anything else but that. It’s absurd, tasteless, excessively violent and proud to be all of those things! For an action movie junkie like myself, the movie is very much a dream come true.

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