Shooting blanks

Shoot ‘Em Up is the kind of mindless action film (heavy on the mindless) that practically begs you to enjoy it.

Shoot ‘Em Up is the kind of mindless action film (heavy on the mindless) that practically begs you to enjoy it. It has big stars (Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti), big guns and a rockin’ soundtrack. It has all the elements of a stupidly entertaining film, but doesn’t have the entertainment.

Shoot ‘Em Up is delivered so lazily and skillessly that it will annoy even the most die-hard action fan. The film, written and directed by Michael Davis (he co-wrote the Double Dragon movie), stars Owen as Mr. Smith–yes, his name is Smith–a homeless marksman trying to protect an orphaned baby from the ruthless assassins out to kill it.

Hertz (Giamatti) is the evil leader of the hit squad. You know he’s evil, because he bulges out his eyes and sneers. It’s a shame such actors are wasted on these tired roles. The plot involves a mysterious baby hatchery and political corruption, but I’ll stop there. Does the plot really matter? No, but I really like writing the words “baby hatchery.” You know what kind of movie you are in for when the hero delivers a baby in the middle of a gunfight and then proceeds to shoot the umbilical cord.

The movie is one action scene after another where the nearly invincible Smith kills hundreds of assassins without blinking. It is essentially the film version of a shooting gallery where the nameless and faceless villains stand in a line and the hero runs back and forth shooting, spinning and sliding on the ground.

Is it that hard to get a qualified fight choreographer to give us something other then plain old running and shooting?

The filmmakers are misguided in thinking that all action fans want are exploding heads and blazing guns. It takes more to make those scenes memorable, and the only thing that stands out in Shoot ‘Em Up are the carrots. That’s right, the most interesting thing is a vegetable. Smith loves carrots so much that most scenes end with him biting into one dramatically.

In the movie Smith shoves a carrot in a bad guy’s eye, through a bad guy’s brain, and, for some reason, continually uses them to pull the trigger of his gun. The only explanation given for his carrot obsession is that it makes his eyesight better for shooting (uh huh…sure).

The movie could work if the action scenes were at least thrilling or amusing, but they aren’t. The villains are of no threat to Smith and the audience knows this. Why should we care what happens?

There are some potentially interesting set pieces, including a sky-diving shoot-out, but the way the script gets the characters in these situations is so frustrating that it’s painful.

Hertz jumps to so many conclusions about where Smith is hiding throughout the movie he might as well be Miss Cleo. For example, Smith hides out in a whorehouse and Hertz finds them by grabbing the breast of the baby’s dead mother, smelling it and proclaiming, “Breast milk. The baby must be hungry.” He then manages to get a list of every lactating hooker in the city. Now I haven’t picked up the phone book in a while, but I’m sure there isn’t an entry under L for lactating hookers. Yet here we are.

In the end Shoot ‘Em Up left me feeling empty. If you want non-stop action with intelligence and respect for its audience, go see The Bourne Ultimatum. If you want comical action, go see Rush Hour 3. Whatever you want, it isn’t in Shoot ‘Em Up.