by GEOFF GEIB
This is a movie where the hero kills hundreds of people in a never-ending frenzy of bullets and carrots. I liked it.
Of course, it’s difficult not to like a movie with Clive Owen in it. The man is a phenomenal actor and of the nine films he has appeared in that I have seen, there is only one dud (thanks a bunch King Arthur). His work in Croupier remains one of my favorite performances ever. He is consistently able, with the subtlest of gestures, to reveal or suggest so much while never compromising the integrity of the larger story. His recent stints in Sin City and Children of Men were stalwart and while he is asked to provide screen presence only in Shoot ‘Em Up, he does so with grace and ease. He would have made a great Bond.
Equally impressive, and equally unsurprising, is Paul Giamatti as the villain. Like Owen, he has compiled an impressive resume, including the audacious if not entirely successful American Splendor. Here he takes a break from acting to gnash his teeth and chew the scenery and he relishes every hammy moment of it. This is the sort of movie an actor takes when he’s tired of pinot and angry but ultimately helpful monkeys, and really, can you blame him for needing a break?
Shoot ‘Em Up relies heavily on charm, and for that to work, you simply must cast the film well. Owen and Giamatti dominate the film and carry it when lesser actors would fold from the weight.
The plot, and I only refer to it as such since ‘the vaguely interconnecting series of preposterous contrivances’ is a bit wordy, is not the film’s strength. The boldly constructed gunfights are, and while the movie does drag a bit when bullets aren’t whizzing by, fortunately for all involved, those moments are relatively few. The best of the action sequences involve skydiving, stairwells and umbilical cords.
Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
It is an exercise in panache. It is weightless and meaningless and utterly ridiculous, but the movie strikes the right tone and moves briskly and God love the title, it tells you what kind of animal it is before the opening shot, pun happily intended. It’s not a great film, it might not even be a good one, but I smiled a lot, and in a summer that included Peter Parker channeling Saturday Night Fever, it was a welcome relief.