You don’t need to know very much about Shoot ‘Em Up. It’s a 1997 film starring Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci based on an idea writer-director had watching Hard Boiled. You know that bit? The shoot-out while Chow Yun Fat is holding the baby? What if there was a whole film based around just that scene?
I mean, it’s like that for the entire film. It’s not like there’s no dialogue – there’s plenty, and much of it witty – but everything is done while firing a gun. The birthing scene at the beginning is in the middle of a gun fight, even the sex scene is played out while pistols are fired. The action barely lets up for one second, and it makes this about the best film of its type since Commando.
Hollywood Reporter lamented that “anyone looking for subtlety, character development or layered plotting will be disappointed”, but admitted it’s a lot of fun. It’s completely tasteless, of course, and Monica Bellucci does little more than run around half-naked and scream a lot, but this doesn’t exactly sell itself on its dramatic credentials. It’s just people shooting guns for 86 minutes and almost nothing else.
The little in the film that isn’t gunplay is a charming pastiche of Bugs Bunny. He munches on carrots through much of the film, and uses them as elaborate props and even improvised weapons. His evil nemesis, Paul Giamatti, calls him a “Wascally Wabbit” at one point, and the graphic violence falls on the side of cartoonish.
It’s no Oscar-winner and fared quite poorly at the box office, but if you’re looking for mindless entertainment it’s definitely worth your time.