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There are action films that are considered classics in its genre, and then there are action features that are so laughable they defy belief. Shoot ‘Em Up (2007), starring Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Monica Bellucci, is an action picture that's very well-made and well cast, but also hilarious in its absurdly clever premise. It can be viewed as a terrific film that also makes fun of everything that's included in action films.
In this action feature, Owen's heroic protagonist (conveniently named Smith) is, according to him, a dangerous British nanny who enjoys eating carrots like Bugs Bunny (occasionally using them to stab bad guys in the head) and mostly keeps to himself. That is until he sees a pregnant woman being hunted by armed gunmen in dark clothing. Smith manages to take a gun and shoot down several bad guys (also mostly in the head). He also helps the woman conceive her baby as men are constantly shooting at them.
While the mother of the baby is unfortunately shot and killed, Smith takes the newborn child and protects him from harm. He then turns to Donna Quintano (Bellucci), a beautiful and tough working girl, who Smith asks to help care and feed the baby. Meanwhile, the main villain named Hertz (Giamatti) rapidly searches for Smith and the baby. He instantly realizes that the baby must be hungry, and (miraculously) finds out that Donna has the baby, but after torturing her for information, Smith takes down Hertz and shoots him (even though a bulletproof vest saves the villain from death).
Smith, Donna, and the baby (who Smith calls Oliver after the name Oliver Twist) are on the run from Hertz and his henchmen throughout the film. At one point, Smith has a hideout in which a rat unlocks the door, and he finds out Oliver stops crying when he listens to loud heavy metal music. Smith and Donna both have a friendly and argumentative partnership, but ultimately fall in love with each other because they are both strong and sympathetic people who value human life, and have each experienced personal loss.
At one point, Hertz learns more about Smith, taunting the hero about how he used to be a military man with a wife and child, who were both unfortunately murdered, leaving Smith in anguish. Donna also shares her story with Smith and how she lost her baby. While the film is mostly high-octane action, the heroes and villains are provided with significant backstories.
Despite being an evil and sinister bad guy, Hertz appears like a regular villain, but as his henchmen mention, he used to be a forensic psychologist, which explains his ability to discover Smith's past, as well as tracking down people and knowing what they'll do next. Smith and Hertz are both high-level experts in handling all types of firearms, including how many times guns are fired, and how much ammunition is required in each weapon. Hertz and his henchmen also have some cool pistols that require a handprint signature, so others can't fire their guns.
The plot surrounding the baby, Oliver, is also weird but intriguing because Smith and Donna learn that Oliver's mom was one of several women who were impregnated (before getting killed) from the same sperm donor (a U.S. Senator named Rutledge, who has cancer). Hertz and a gun manufacturer named Hammerson have made a deal with Rutledge: if the senator gets a bone marrow transplant from a matching donor (one of the babies, possibly Oliver) and is elected president, he will allow Hertz and Hammerson to continue their right to bear arms and sell high-powered guns (even though Rutledge is for stricter gun laws). Hertz and Hammerson are killers who don't want the next president to eliminate the Second Amendment.
The action sequences and shootouts in the film are violently over-the-top and fast-paced, but also very funny and well-choreographed because Smith is like a heroic protagonist in a Western who rarely ever misses, and shoots his targets with precision. As Smith, Clive Owen is perfect in the role because he has a sarcastic sense of humor, and knows how to balance subtle emotion and action. Owen's role here is similar to his character in Robert Rodriguez's comic book film Sin City because both heroes are confident and skilled marksmen, each living in a world filled with stylized violence and bad, cynical people.
Paul Giamatti, a versatile actor who has starred in both dramas and comedies, may seem like an odd choice to play such an evil villain. However, Giamatti easily makes the role of Hertz his own due to his snarkling smile, the funny way he always gets mad when he's constantly a step behind Smith, his expertise in using weapons, and the ability to sense what others think, especially when people are lying to him. Monica Bellucci makes her role as Donna more than just a sex worker, but a strong woman with personal emotions and her openness towards Smith grows because of their goodness and humanity. Smith and Donna's playful banter is also very humorous, along with a funny scene where Smith shoots down bad guys as he and Donna get intimate with each other.
Shoot ‘Em Up is both a parody and an homage to ultra-violent action films, especially Westerns and John Woo's Hong Kong action flicks (including Hard Boiled, the main inspiration for this movie, which also involved a hero saving babies from evil people). If actions fans are looking for great shootouts and a cool cast of characters, this film is the one to watch.
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About The Author
Christian Colby Eltell
(45 Articles Published)
My name is Christian Eltell. I was born in Colorado, but I've lived all my life in New York. I'm an NYU Tisch graduate with a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies, and a St. Joseph's College graduate with a Bachelor's Degree as an English major and history minor. I've always enjoyed watching movies, especially crime dramas, Westerns, gangster pictures, and superhero films. I hope to entertain everyone with my writing on movies and television.
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