Wednesday, 30 April 2008

DVD: Shoot 'Em Up

Lowdown: Concentrated high octane action generating more dead bodies than an invasion to Iraq.
Review:
I think I can safely say we’ve all seen films along the lines of Shoot ‘Em Up. Want examples? Well, on this very blog there was already some significant mentioning of The Transporter, Transporter 2, and Crank. Yes, we’re talking about yet another film that features a very silly plot, chauvinism in quantities competing with China’s GDP, and baddies that are so bad with their aim you’d send them to Iraq. But do we care? No, because it’s all wrapped up in action scenes that are so numerous, so concentrated, so visceral – and often so very funny – that you just watch it with sheer joy.
The plot doesn’t really matter but I’ll give you the basic rundown for the laugh. A guy just sitting there eating his carrot (later we learn he identifies himself as Mr Smith) is suddenly confronted by a pregnant woman being chased by a guy who tries to kill her. Smith does the decent thing and kills the guy, only to find himself and the woman chased by hordes and hordes of villains. So what does Smith do? He shoots ‘em up, of course, in a multitude ways that go in and out of style but are guaranteed to raise a smile.
Thus the killing continues on and on – probably into the three digit realm. The woman quickly dies leaving Smith to take care of the baby, so he retaliates by acquiring the services of a whore serving the lactation fetish community and aptly cast as Monica Bellucci. Eventually (but not that long after, given that Shoot is only 80 minutes long) we learn that the killers are government related, in a very complicated and nonsensical kind of a way, which serves mostly to add to the film’s coolness levels by seemingly protesting against conformism.
Overall, Shoot reminds me of John Woo’s Hong Kong era: the time in which he made silly films that specialized in concentrated action and a massively high body count and just happened to be so stupidly entertaining. However, the ace in the hole Shoot has on top of those films is its cast. Mr Smith is portrayed by Clive Owen, who by now has pretty firmly established himself as my favorite contemporary heroic male lead (as in, post Harrison Ford). Sure, he played in that crap King Arthur film, but he also played in Inside Man and in Children of Men; besides, have you seen him in Extras?
The real edge that separates Shoot from the others is to do with the boss baddie. Most of the genre’s films settle for a token character who is good in kung-fu, but Shoot brings along another favorite actor of mine, Paul Giamatti. Yes, I really like Sideways, but the point here is that Giamatti is able to give an aura of authenticity and lots of roundness to the character despite the silly premises. It works, and it works well.
Best scene: Learn how to kill a baddie with a carrot or how to kill many baddies while having yourself and your partner an orgasm.
Picture quality: Shoot goes for the ultra high contrast look, which gives it a surrealistic appearance but which also lacks detail and finesse.
Sound quality: Lots of noises and all, but again – no finesse.
Overall: Shoot is the Hard Boiled type film John Woo should have made when he moved to Hollywood. It is not a film that would change the way you think of life and the universe, but for its genre it is one of the best. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

4 comments:

Your Racist Friend said...

This was hands down the most un-disappointing movie I saw last year. They did a nice job of using pop music in ways that weren't MTV (like that extended gunfight in the middle set to Motorhead), and it was nice and irreverent. It could have been so bad, but I think just about everything was handled just right. Too bad America didn't get it (AND it was released in such limited qunatities).

Moshe Reuveni said...

You're right about the music: it was very well used, and it used some damn good music.
In case it comforts you, I don't think Shoot 'Em Up made much of an impression at the Aussie box offices either. To add insult to injury, our video rental store only has 3 copies of it (as opposed to the full wall standard for new releases). So there you go - people not recognizing quality is a universal attribute.
Or, to put it another way: We're all idiots.

Your Racist Friend said...

I view it as an oddly comforting par for the course: lots of great movies went wayyyyy over people's heads upon first theatrical release, only to become legend later on (Fight Club, Citizen Kane, It's A Wonderful Life, etc)

Moshe Reuveni said...

You should add Blade Runner to your list.
Given some of the sh*t that makes millions at the box office, I don't really think of success at the box office as an indicator for anything other than the success of the marketing machine.
For the record, I think Citizen Cane is overhyped boredom.