DVD/Blu-ray Reviews

Shoot 'Em Up - DVD Review



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</script></div>{/googleAds}Only a few minutes old, his pregnant mother having just delivered him in an abandon warehouse under a hail of gunfire moments earlier, Baby Oliver is the target of an assassination—yes, a baby—by the psychotically deranged Hertz (Paul Giamatti, Lady in the Water) and his limitless gang of armed-to-the-teeth automaton henchmen. Smith (Clive Owen, Inside Man) is a mysterious loner who handles firearms and dodges bullets (over 200 different types of guns appear on screen) like a precisely choreographed, graceful ballet dancer. Smith hasn't sought out trouble—it's crashed on him with meteoric force by sheer chance 30 seconds after the credits roll.

In the wrong place at the right time, Smith intervenes to deliver Baby Oliver as his defensive bullet shells land on the postpartum, though soon to be killed, mother's stomach. Now knee- deep in murder and mayhem Smith sets about figuring out why Hertz and his army of assassins are so desperate to kill a baby. Welcome to the world Baby Oliver. If you winced when Gene Hackman's recklessly driving Det. Popeye Doyle almost ran over an innocent mother pushing a baby in a stroller in The French Connection (1971), wait till you get a load of Indie B-movie writer/director Michael Davis's (Monster Man and Girl Fever) frenetically narcissistic big studio actioner. Welcome to Shoot ‘Em Up.

With a knowing ‘wink', filmmaker Michael Davis enthusiastically leads us as he and the audience relish the chance to live vicariously through his antihero, Smith. Of course, this is based on Davis's assumption that we would want to do such a thing. Unless you're in the18-25 male demographic, have an insatiable appetite for first-person shooter video games, and regret the demise of speed-metal crooners Motorhead, than this is probably a misguided assumption. Telling a violent crime story with a subtle—we're not taking ourselves too seriously—‘wink' of the eye is nothing new, of course, and can be fun for the audience when handled with self-effacement. When the subtle ‘wink' transforms into a bigheaded (look at me) ‘squint,' the filmmaker gets in the way of his or her movie. Such is the case here.

Shoot ‘Me Up oozes Hong Kong action film influence. Director Davis has acknowledged that the genesis for the movie is a scene in director John Woo's Hard Boiled (1992) in which the lead, Chow Yun-Fat, is in a hospital with a gun and a baby. From this, director Davis developed his ‘antihero saddled with a baby' concept into a feature length movie. And, therein lies the film's central weakness. All indications are that the filmmaker only had a plot-device to sell—not a story. The director developed the plot-device and then fabricated a bloated, videogame worthy plot-device-justifies-the-plot (rather than the other way around) approach that—like an Amway salesman—pitches the product (read: plot-device) too hard and too fast.

Clive Owen as Smith handles the role with as much aplomb as can be expected considering what he's being given to work with. His Smith has the look of a weather-beaten man who would really rather be left alone, but can handle himself when forced to do so. Smith has a wry sense of humor (â"I'm a British nanny") that loves to eat carrots that occasionally double as deadly weapons against unlucky bad guys. Owen proves he understands his character by making us believe that Smith would do whatever it takes to protect Baby Oliver. Giamatti is misspent as the heavy. His is a throwaway role with a suitably throwaway performance. During one early action scene Giamatti's Hertz says about Smith's nimble recovery of Baby Oliver from a playground during a gun battle, â"F*#% me sideways." Yes, indeed—Giamatti is a long way from the quality of work he did on that film of the same name.

Nevertheless, the trouble is not with Giamatti—it's with writer/director Michael Davis. Davis's writing, while occasionally clever, is painfully sophomoric most of the time. Director Davis has said he doesn't like to think of his film as ‘cartoonish' because it diminishes the audience's emotional investment. Lest we forget Mr. Davis that the hero eats carrots throughout the entire movie. Remind you of any iconic cartoon rabbit? Giamatti's Hertz even says to Smith at one point—in admiration of Smith's elusiveness from capture—you are a ‘wascally wabbit'. It appears that Mr. Davis wants his carrot and eat it too.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish.

Language and Sound: English: English: DTS 5.1 Surround; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; director's commentary; making-of featurette.

* Commentary
o Viewers can watch the entire movie with ‘Commentary by Writer/Director' Michael Davis
* Featurettes
o 'Ballet of Bullets' (The making of Shoot ‘Em Up), (52:00)
o ‘Animatics' featuring a shot-for-shot breakdown of 13—yes, 13—individual action scenes—all in crude black and white animated format (yawn).
* Deleted Scenes - Nine ‘Deleted/Alternate Scenes' (with or w/o directory commentary)
* DVD-Rom/Online features: that allow viewers to watch the movie with interactive features on their computer.

All this for a B-movie, wrapped in an A-budget, which lasts 86 minutes.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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