To be honest I’m not much of a Clive Owen fan. For example, I found his performance to be the weakest amongst the lead characters in the brilliant Sin City. On the other hand, I guess that shouldn’t be held too much against Owen given how strong the other characters and actors in that film were. (In a race someone has to come in last place, even when all the runners are strong.) Also, to be fair, I feel Owen did acquit himself fairly well in Children of Men and King Arthur. So I was willing to give Clive a chance on Shoot ‘Em Up, mainly based on the good review I heard for it on NPR back when.
And sure enough, this flick is actually pretty darned good.
Bullets spray continually throughout this film and people are killed in all sorts of unusual ways. So be prepared for that.
Owen plays “Smith,” a man who strictly by chance finds himself in the position of rescuing a newborn baby from a bunch of bad guys are trying to steal the little guy after killing his mother.
To the chagrin of the villains, Smith is a former Black Ops operative with the marksmanship skills rivaling that of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. And in terms of getting out of a tight spot Smith is comparable to the John Smith character (Bruce Willis) from Walter Hill’s flawed but still (for me anyway) enjoyable Last Man Standing.
Paul Giamatti gives an offbeat performance as the chief villain, Hertz, who is a bit reminiscent of Wallace Shawn’s Vizzini character from the Princess Bride. Despite his overcompensating swagger he can never be, will never be, a match for Smith. And to drive this home, the film uses an ongoing joke comparing Smith to Bugs Bunny since he east carrots all the time. Smith is essentially Bugs to Hertz’s Elmer Fudd. In the cartoon there isn’t a shred of doubt who will win, but we still enjoy Bugs getting the better of Elmer. Same thing here. We just sit back and enjoy how creative and amusing the hero is in defeating his opponent.
The picture opens with a scene that is sure to please fans of this genre. The use of a particularly unlikely weapon is probably one of the most creative that I can ever recall seeing.
Monica Bellucci is very good as a prostitute that Smith enlists to help him.
Anyway, Clive Owen climbs the ladder a bit in my appreciation of his work for the job he does with this film. He makes it all work, and I certainly bought in to him as Smith. Shoot ‘Em Up is a great fun if you’re a fan of this type of action film.