Unfortunately, director Michael Davis doesn't stop pushing the envelope at innovative bullet exchanges. He wants all facets of his movie to go to the extreme, and like Smokin' Aces, the movie often goes too far and becomes an annoyance: It wallows in a kind of visual squalor for much of its running time.
I have a list of the Top 10 things I don't need to see in a movie, and that list includes repeated shots of baby shit getting smeared on somebody's face. And, oh yeah, the sight of a grown man in a diaper with breast milk dripping from his chin, because he's been feasting on a lactating hooker.
I'm thinking I just stopped a whole lot of you from going to see this movie.
The first 10 minutes are great. Clive Owen is introduced in a way that had me thinking I was going to be watching some sort of action-thriller classic. Then, well, the lactating hooker showed up.
The hooker, Donna, is played by the beautiful Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalen in The Passion of the Christ), and her career has seen better days. Seeing such a stunning actress reduced to this sad role is nothing short of depressing. Also, the very Italian Bellucci has a rather poor command of the English language. This results in the dreaded audio hell of a performer parroting lines rather than actually knowing what she is saying. All of her dialogue delivery is painfully stiff.
Owen plays Smith, a maestro with a gun whose origins are not fully explained. He's a mysterious character thrown into a situation in which he's protecting a baby that he rescues from an evil hitman named Hertz (a fitfully disgusting Paul Giamatti). If anything, the film is proof of Owen's massive starpower, because he almost makes things tolerable.
As for Giamatti, he's a little too good at being gross. A scene where he touches the breast of a dead woman is acted with perhaps a little too much feeling. Again, director Davis tends to throw things on the screen that I really don't need to see.
There's a running gag with carrots, Smith's food of choice. He's continuously chomping on the vegetable and, when the moment suits him, using them as killing weapons. In the universe of Shoot 'Em Up, carrots have the penetrating power of a railroad spike, with Owen driving carrots through heads via an eye socket. It seems to me that a carrot with the potential to be driven through a skull and brain matter would be destructive to Owen's teeth, but he chomps on them without difficulty. I didn't see any teeth chipping.
As for those unique gunfights, one that had me laughing occurred while Smith makes love to Donna. Smith keeps the action going in both ways, dispatching many a villain with his gun while keeping Donna satisfied. It's ridiculous but undeniably funny. Another fun sequence happens when Smith parachutes from an airliner and has a gunfight on the way down to the ground. The opening fight sequence has Smith rolling around and jumping through the air, fighting bad guys while cradling the baby--all innovative action filmmaking.
Too bad Davis screws it up with the foul material. For every one thing that works in Shoot 'Em Up, there are two that muck it up. Owen, Giamatti and especially Bellucci deserve better than this, and I'm thinking Davis has some better films in him. He just needs to calm his ass down.