Here’s another example where the trailer doesn’t lie. We caught a late screening of Shoot ‘Em Up last night, and it’s everything the trailer suggests: a straight forward action with a weird setup (Clive Owen vows to save a baby from the bad guys despite having no connection with anybody involved) and even weirder characters. Shoot ‘Em Up is so completely unconcerned with trying to make it a smart or deep experience, and is so focused on trying to top itself every five minutes that it’s sorta genius in its own twisted way.
While the movie directly references Sergio Leone‘s Spaghetti Westerns (including extreme close-ups of Clive Owen’s steely eyes, a hero with no name and not much a past, and several showdowns), it’s also as much a throwback to 80s and early 90s action flicks. You know, the kind: action sets stuffed with one-liners and nary a complicated plot to muck things up. The first action sequence starts about two minutes into the movie and it pretty much never lets up from there.
For those who weren’t fortunate enough to catch a screening, New Line presented several clips during their panel. The first clip (and the movie itself) opens with said close-up of Owen’s eyes. The camera pans out. It’s nighttime, he’s sitting at a dungy bus stop, sneering. Then…he puts a carrot to his mouth and chomps it. As a fan later said into the mic during the QA: “I never knew eating carrots could be so awesome.”
A pregnant woman stumbles past in a frenzy, panting. A car careens down the street, crashes into a parked one, and the driver pokes his head out and screams, “You’re dead, b****!” He gets out, pulls a gun, and goes into the building to do his dirty work. Mr. Smith, who had been watching with slight bemusement, gets up, curses, and goes in to be the good guy. And that’s all back story and motivation you’ll get for Mr. Smith.
The resulting shootout has Smith piling up dozens of bodies: he shoves a carrot through a guy’s throat (“Eat your vegetables,” Smith deadpans), he rides an oil slick on his back while shooting, delivers the baby while fending off more bad guys (a hilariously outrageous scene has Smith shooting the umbilical cord, spraying the mother’s face with blood), and runs into Paul Giamatti, the main henchman. Like everyone else in the movie, Giamatti tears into his role, playing Elmer Fudd to Owen’s carrot-toting Bugs Bunny.
Another clip has Monica Bellucci (ad hoc guardian of the baby) and Clive Owen being chased by a van. They separate; Owen jumps off a bridge and lands in a BMW after shooting through the sunroof. He hotwires the car,and the two engage in a fantastic car battle. At the end, the BMW and the van drive towards each other in a game of chicken. Owen shoots his windshield off, unbuckles his seat belt, and after crashing, he flies through the van’s windshield, lands in the back, whips around, and shoots the five guys in the van. Amazing. Owen drops another one-liner, but the crowd erupted in huge laughter, cheers, and applause, drowning out the sound completely.
And, yes, the skydiving shoot-out is fantastic. Once Owen jumps out of the plane with killers in tow, one of our RT crew turned to me and said, “What the hell are we watching?!” Exactly.
By my count, there’s about 11 action scenes, and each one has a few moments that’ll make a receptive viewer laugh out loud in disbelief and cheer. And it’s all cleanly edited, with clearly shot scenes, and minimal handheld shakiness. R-rated action flicks haven’t been this fun in a while.