shoot-em-upDirected by: Michael Davis.

Written by: Michael Davis.

Starring: Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and Monica Bellucci. 86 min. R.

Review top sheet: the title does not lie – shooting is what you are going to get. Shoot ‘Em Up is less a film and more a video game with bad language and some sex. Well choreographed shoot-out scenes, Paul Giamatti’s acting genius and Clive Owen’s barrow boy James Bond thing join forces with Monica Bellucci’s inviting cleavage in a desperate attempt to hold together a truly ludicrous story.

Will you like this film?

  • Yes, if you’re planning on aligning your sympathies with those of a mass murderer any time soon and would like to acclimatise to – in fact become bored by – an endless procession of killing. I can see why that was felt to be something the US public might need.
  • No, if you think that after investing 86 minutes of your life (plus travel time) in what is loosely termed drama, you should come away with something more than just a headache.
  • Maybe, if you’d like to gloat at the fact that Monica Bellucci – despite her undeniably great looks – is getting older just like the rest of us.


General comments: the opening is intense. But after it, I was pretty much ready to go home. It was interesting for that long. In the same way as being invited round to some rich kid’s house when you were at school to watch him play a new video game he got for his birthday, but which his mum won’t let anyone else touch.

Creative works have always been able to find an audience when devoid of originality and content if packed with enough shock value. In this approach, visceral jolts which push the bar of what we are deemed to be comfortable with are used to keep us consuming the product in the hope that we won’t notice that we are being emotionally and spiritually degraded in the process. Translated, this means producers think we will still submit to being dumbed down if they can titillate us in a new and more sordid way than before. The problem is that while entertainment can always get better, it cannot always get worse. There is a point at which we turn off and – dare I say it – start using our minds again.

I’m not saying Shoot ‘Em Up represents the absolute floor. I’m sure Hollywood has plans to cloud our intellectual and moral abilities a great deal further. But it does demonstrate a problem with the ‘feelies’ – to use the term for the insipid cinema of Huxley’s Brave New World – unless you are getting your soma fix, you can’t help noticing what a load of rubbish it all is.

Out-of-five star ratings:

  • Story:
  • Acting:   ***
  • Substance:
  • Film craft:   ****


Story comments: there are some truly harrowing plot leaps handled with all the finesse of a bear and a hippo attempting a pas de deux. And in dialogue terms, expect to be wowed by such pieces of acerbic erudition as “F*** you, you f***ing f***er”. I must remember that one.

In essence, this is one man going through a series of levels in his own personal computer game dispatching an endless supply of willing lemmings with an assortment of exciting weapons and accessories.

Acting comments: well, both Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti can act and they do their best in the circumstances.

Substance comments: there is no substance and there is no point pretending otherwise. There was a feeble attempt to get some gun control propaganda in there towards the end – which is very much on the agenda in the US and promoted via entertainment – but it didn’t really come off. When decent Americans lose the right to bear arms (along with the last vestiges of the Constitution) the only people left with them will be criminals and the government. But I repeat myself.

Film craft comments: well shot and visually interesting even when people are not being killed.

A taste of the story: a man named Mr. Smith delivers a woman’s baby during a shootout, and is then called upon to protect the newborn from an army of gunmen. Apparently trained assassins have paternal instincts, too.

Published by The Moscow News.