Michael Davis | 83 mins | DVD | 18 / R
Shoot ‘Em Up is the film Wanted wants to be. It’s packed to bursting with utterly ludicrous — but, consequently, ludicrously cool — action sequences. It’s fast-paced, witty, and endlessly inventive. As the action genre goes, this is pure entertainment.
The plot, such as it is, is borderline nonsensical — some craziness to do with a baby factory (which is, believe it or not, the morally acceptable part), political coups, and goodness knows what else. If you want to follow it you might need to engage your brain at times, but so long as you can tell who’s bad and who’s good — and you can, easily — then all is well. This might sound like a criticism, but by pushing the implausibility of an action-thriller plot as far as it can, the story becomes another element in the whole film’s spoof-homage aesthetic. Everyone involved is clearly having fun with this, though none more so than Paul Giamatti. His wonderful villain is cunningly evil but constantly interrupted by domestic phonecalls from his beloved wife. Luckily this enjoyment is conveyed to the viewer, lending the one-liners and sundry other gags more humour than they might otherwise deserve.
Some quarters have criticised Shoot ‘Em Up for being cheesy and clichéd. My favourites are those that label it “so daft at least I enjoyed it on that level”. I’m sure these people feel very clever for spotting all the poor stereotypes of an action flick, from the unbelievable plot to the literally impossible feats of action. Unfortunately for those oh-so-clever people, they’ve entirely missed the point — even those daft-lovers. The clue’s in the title, a simple statement of genre that blatantly acknowledges the film’s aim in a way that genuine crap-because-they’re-crap action flicks don’t. Shoot ‘Em Up is an homage and spoof of its genre, pushing everything to the limit. If it took itself seriously the above might be valid criticisms, but it’s meant to be this way.
And if you know that, it works, navigating a successful path between spoof and homage — it’s not Action Movie, a film which must be inevitable by this point — and packed with inventive stunts and shoot outs. For every impressively-inventive-but-physically-implausible stunt in Wanted, this produces half a dozen. And they weren’t all in the trailer either. Silly, fun, and easily better than that over-promoted comic adaptation, in these respects Shoot ‘Em Up deserves much wider recognition.