Danville Express

Living - September 14, 2007

Movie review: Shoot 'Em Up **

Rating: R for pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality and some language. Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Clive Owen must be on a baby kick. The intense British actor follows up last year's riveting "Children of Men" with another film in which he protects a newborn child.

But the difference is behind the scenes. Whereas "Children" was helmed by acclaimed Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, "Shoot 'Em Up" is directed by unproven auteur Michael Davis, whose last effort was a widely unseen schlock horror film called "Monster Man." Rescuing an infant is an admirable character trait, but Owen will likely wish he had hired a babysitter this go around rather than waste energy on an absurd actioner and its inexperienced director.

The quirky opening shows promise: Carrot-munching Mr. Smith (Owen) sits at a bus stop as a pregnant woman hastens by while being stalked by a gun-toting brute. Smith's conscience apparently gets the best of him as he rescues the threatened woman and helps deliver her baby, all while engaged in a gunfight with an array of leather-clad creeps led by spectacled villain Hertz (Paul Giamatti). But a stray bullet leaves the woman dead and the newborn in Smith's care.

Smith soon finds that his inadvertent adoptee is at the center of a conflict between a presidential hopeful who plans to implement strict gun laws and the firearms aficionados who stand to lose from his inauguration. The sharp-shooting Smith finds help from Donna (Monica Bellucci), a lactating prostitute (yes, you read that correctly) whose unexpected motherly instincts prove invaluable.

Owen brings a palpable charisma to the role of Smith, and his magnetic performance almost makes "Shoot 'Em Up" worth the headache. Smith is an enjoyable and enigmatic character. He does the things most of us only dream of: When an inconsiderate driver wildly swerves his luxury car between lanes without a turn signal, Smith simply runs him off the road. The chemistry between Owen and Bellucci is excellent as well.

Giamatti, though, is badly miscast. The "Sideways" actor is jovial and has possibly the least menacing persona in Hollywood. When Hertz is lecturing a cartoonish group of thugs - all of whom wear virtually the same black outfit - his speech is about as intimidating as a run-in with a bunny rabbit.

The nearly non-stop action scenes are punctuated with loud rock music that could make even Beethoven eager for ear plugs. And the term "suspending disbelief" hasn't been this apropos since Democrats watched President Bush take the oath of office. Although the screenplay is at times clever and tongue-in-cheek, the absurd scenarios and forced one-liners reveal writing that is built on gimmicks.

Testosterone-driven teenage boys will hoot and holler, but "Shoot 'Em Up" is ridiculous and riddled with blood and bullets.

--Tyler Hanley

For more movie reviews or local show times, go to www.DanvilleWeekly.com


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