Owen, clive owen
There have already been critical rumblings about the extreme violence in Shoot ‘Em Up, but it’s hard to get too worked up. Yes, the moment in the opening scene when Clive Owen jams a carrot stick into a bad guy’s eye — and out the back of his head — cheapens all involved, but you can’t stay mad at a picture that soon has the hero helping a woman give birth with one hand and shooting encroaching thugs with the other. Moments later, as any fast-thinking gentleman would, he severs the baby’s umbilical chord by shooting it in two, prompting the new mother to scream (quite sensibly), “What the hell are you doing?”
I mean, hey, that’s funny.
OK. Maybe it’s a guy thing.
Clive Owen is the carrot-chomping Mr. Smith, a tough-looking guy in a long leather coat who’s sitting on a bus bench on a seedy Manhattan side street, minding his own mysterious business, when a screaming pregnant woman (Ramona Pringle) runs past him, as does a profanity-spewing ne’er-do-well with a gun. Sighing, Smith gives chase, leading to a warehouse shootout involving an assortment of heavily armed creeps led by a snarling Paul Giamatti, a great actor who’s clearly decided that he deserves a silly action-movie moment to call his own. Besides, what mortal man could resist the chance to repeatedly fire a semi-automatic at a man as heedlessly, arrogantly handsome as Clive Owen?
Writer-director Michael Davis, who has made four previous films that no one really remembers, freely admits having lifted the idea for Shoot ‘Em Up from the classic baby-in-peril hospital shootout in John Woo’s Hong Kong thriller Hard-Boiled. Originality is no longer the path to success, hence Davis’s enthusiastic nods to Raising Arizona, The Matrix and a British series about a spy named James Bond.
Shoot ‘Em Up is guilty pleasure junk that Giamatti surely took for the manly-man hell of it. And though he’d likely deny the theory, it’s fun to imagine that Owen took the movie as a way of thumbing his nose a little at new Bond Daniel Craig, his countryman and acting equal, who may have simply out-pec’d Owen for the big part.