BY STEPHANIE BREIJO
Who uses carrots, a metal filing cabinet and a baby to get the job done? No, it’s not MacGyver, it’s the more modern-day Smith, Clive Owen’s (of “Closer” and “Children of Men”) newest gun-toting character from the newly-released “Shoot ‘Em Up.” His bullets and his flawless resourcefulness carry this action-packed comedy.
From the comical opening shot of straight-faced Smith mercilessly chomping on one of his trademark carrots to explosions, car chases and skydiving, this flick keeps the adrenaline and the laughs coming.
Though the humor is sometimes repetitive and crude, it’s well worth it for the action sequences that more than compensate for some of the obvious dialogue. For instance, the “blowing your load” reference was made twice verbatim, with at least a dozen-too-many jokes along the same lines, and the attempt at character back-story leaves a Smith-style serious want for more.
But let’s face it – that’s not what you’re there to see anyway, and the sooner you overlook those flaws, you can really start to have fun.
The story begins with the bizarre birth of a baby, who happens to be hunted by the villainous, mildly chauvinistic head honcho, Hertz, played by Paul Giamatti (of “Sideways” and “Cinderella Man”). From the get-go, Smith is an unconventional guardian and father figure, severing the umbilical cord with a single bullet, and bouncing shells off the mother’s pregnant stomach as he takes dead aim on the mysterious bad guys.
To solve the mystery and keep the infant alive, Smith enlists the help of prostitute Donna Quintano, played by Monica Bellucci (of “The Brothers Grimm” and “The Matrix Revolutions”). Together, the two struggle to keep the child out of murderous hands and the ridiculously unrealistic (but also hilarious) scenarios they continually find themselves in.
In fact, this entire film is a string of absurd situations and thrilling, no-holds-barred action sequences. But this is what keeps the audience on its feet.
Smith’s unpredictability and ingenious gun work leave viewers with an utter admiration of his deadpan badassery. Whether he is shooting off the legs of a table to use as a ramp or sliding head-first down a conveyor belt with guns firing, it could never be easier to feel envious of such sweet screen maneuvers.
The performances from Owen, Giamatti and Quintano are all as well executed as “Shoot ‘Em Up’s” action sequences are, which says a lot. Owen’s character and performance are similar to his role in “Sin City,” but he brings more emotion to Smith with his personality quirks like his love for carrots and his ever-changing anger issues (“You know what really makes me mad…?”). Owen gives the gritty, troubled loner just the right touch of human warmth but still plays him off as a mystery, an enigma of a man that we only catch a vulnerable glimpse of every now and again.
Quintano’s prostitute is a caring yet street-friendly woman, whose life is turned complicated and chaotic the second Smith walks through her door. What sets Quintano’s performance apart from the myriad of actresses already playing hookers is her icy, cold demeanor that she uses to get closer to – and farther from – Smith.
Finally, Giamatti’s performance is solid as the trigger-happy goon leader. While Hertz has some horrible one-liners, he also commands his goons in a strong, frightening fashion. Giamatti overcomes the cheesy dialogue by playing up a terrifying wild side, which allows the congenial-seeming Hertz to snap at any minute. He also happens to be one of the funniest aspects of the movie, answering phone calls from his wife throughout the film at the most inopportune moments.
The grand sum of this film is a good laugh, a lot of fast-paced cinematography and some of the most thrilling, ingenious action sequences you may have ever seen. If you can get past the cheesy dialogue and repetitive one-liners, you’ll be in for some good acting, hilarious situations and awe-inspiring action.
If you’re looking for a raunchy, entertaining good time, see “Shoot ‘Em Up” for some sweet and gritty all-guns-out action.