Sunday, September 9, 2007

Shoot'Em Up Review

Hockey blog or not, just for the hell of it here's my review of Shoot'Em Up:

The depiction of violence on film presents a constant struggle for filmmakers. They must balance the audience's desire for more with the constraints of moderation and good taste, which prevent them from providing excessive displays of carnage in their films. Thankfully, the arrival of Shoot'Em Up has provided audiences, and indeed filmmakers the world over, with an excellent example of how to walk this fine line. Seldom has a film breached the subject of violence in such a nuanced and thoughtful manner, evidencing such grace and concern for its subtleties.

I'm just fucking with you, of course.

The only things you really need to know about this movie are that it's called Shoot'Em Up, and it's the most blatantly, wonderfully ridiculous thing to come out in a long, long time. This becomes readily apparent from the opening sequence: The movie opens with our hero "Mr. Smith" (like all good anti-heroes, we never know his real name), sitting on a bench on a deserted city street munching on a (soon to be very lethal) carrot. A preagnant woman then walks by in front of him, followed by an armed thug who chases her into an abandoned building screaming that he's going to kill her. Mr. Smith, completely unphased by this entire scene, lets out a "I gotta do this now?" sigh, and follows the armed thug into the building, quickly dispatching him (using that same carrot..don't ask) and saving the preagnant lady. At this point, around 20 anonymous henchemen inexplicably appear out of absolutely nowhere, guns ablazing. Mr. Smith, without missing a beat, as if this was the most natural thing in the world, gets to work dispatching them. Compounding his problems, the woman he saved decides to go into labor. So now Mr. Smith is heroically dispatching anonymous henchmen with one hand, while helping this woman give birth with the other. The baby is finally delivered, although his mother doesn't survive, and Mr. Smith spends the rest of the movie running and trying to protect him from yet more anonymous henchmen, led by the always enjoyable Paul Giamatti.

Yup, it's that ridiculous. Halfway through this first scene I actually turned to my friend and said "this has to be a dream sequence or something"'. I thought it was too over the top, and that the real movie would start as soon as this sequence was over, answering all our questions. Questions like: Why is Mr. Smith risking his life to save these this baby from all these henchmen without even pausing to consider it? Why doesn't he look even a bit surprised by everything that's going on? Where did he learn to dispatch anonymous henchmen so effieciently? Alas, these questions are left unanswered. The movie keeps right on going the way it began, with little time spent on such petty details as why exactly any of this is happerning. Oh there's a plot, of sorts, but the whole thing smacks of the writers going "OK this movie's going to have a lot of action scenes. It's going to start with a random guy deciding to be a hero and save a preagnant lady he doesn't even know. We'll figure out the rest as we go along."

Generally being light in the plot department isn't a fatal flaw for an action movie. They're action movies first and foremost, and that's fine. As long as the plots provide some explaination for why one group of guys is shooting at the other group of guys, there's usually no problem. But there's a line, damnit! And this movie crosses it. It doesn't as much ignore the idea of a plot as it actively disdains it. It's as if the filmmakers felt insulted by the fact that they had to fit all the awesome action scenes they came up with into some sort of story, and so spent as little time and energy on it as possible. Yeah, yeah, i know... "To hell with the plot, nobody's watching for that anyway". Even if they aren't, this move ignores its plot so thoroughly that it's actually hurt by its absence. The whole thing seems too sudden and unexplained, and the action scenes lose some of their entertainment value because you've always got that little voice in the back of your mind saying "wait, why is this stuff happerning?"

Now that we got that out of the way, though, the action sequences themselves are as ridiculous and entertaining as you'd expect. Aside from the aforementioned scene where our hero helps with the birth of a baby while partaking in a shootout, we also have what may be the first free-falling-from-a-plane shootout in movie history and a hilarious combination of a love scene and action scene(our hero's having such a good time that he continues his tyrst with his love interest even as armed henchmen burst into the room and he has to fight them off). The movie makes a point of trying to give each scene its own little twist to mix things up (sometimes our guy gets to set up traps for the anonymous henchmen, sometimes he's out of bullets so he has to throw carrots at them, etc.) keeping things fresher than they would otherwise be. Aside from the whole "Look, now he's shooting people while doing (such-and-such) at the same time" gimmick, and the general over-the-topness of everything, though, there's nothing really that groundbreaking about the way in which the action scenes are shot. You've seen most of this stuff before. Nonetheless, everything is so well executed, and done with such glee, that you can't help but be entertained even as you wonder what's going on.

As much as I hate this movie for bringing us closer to the day when Hollywood releases a movie that's literally two hours of people shooting at eachother without any context whatsoever, it was still a good time. As long as you go in knowing what you're getting yourself into, there's worse ways to spend two hours.

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