Dir. - Michael Davis (check out his awesome work on Prehysteria! 3)
This is one of those movies that I'd rather not spend time dwelling upon, but since I'd mentioned that I'd bring it up later in my Smokin' Aces review I guess I should keep my word. Not that anyone but me cares... Anyway, there are some somewhat interesting contrasts to bring up regarding Smokin' Aces, a somewhat admirable venture gone sour, and Shoot 'Em Up, a ridiculous, steaming pile of headache.
I can't pinpoint what drives me to watch movies like Shoot 'Em Up. I try to tell myself that any movie featuring Paul Giamatti chasing around Clive Owen a la Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny should be worth a gander. And yes, there are many references to that Looney Tunes duo in this movie. I also tend to string my Netflix queue together with double features and themes and the like. So naturally Ace's and Shoot were right next to each other the whole time. But truth be told I'll always have a soft spot for some well done violence. But I fear that the craftsmanship behind a good action picture died sometime ago. Probably around the time John Woo took his first lunch at Spago's. This is what makes Tarantino and movies like The Departed seem so amazing -- wow, someone still cares about making a gun fight an exhilarating thing to watch.
You can tell Smokin' Aces cares by how it trots out its pretentious finale and how it manages to give you one or two characters that you actually end up caring about even against your better judgment. Carnahan has a good head on his shoulders and he knows how to shoot a movie, he just trips over himself way too many times before shooting himself in the foot at the end. The team behind Shoot 'Em Up (I'll call them Team Migraine) doesn't care a lick about creating drama, tension, suspense, or any reason to watch their movie besides the fact that you're guaranteed to see another 50 bullets fired in a few minutes if you stick around. This might be something to look forward to if this wasn't one of the most poorly shot action movies I've ever disdainfully sat through.
Does this sound interesting -- Clive Owen plays a badass with a gun, newborn baby and lactating hooker by his side, trying to avoid a relentless army of thugs led by a maniacal Paul Giamatti. I dunno, I could watch that. But try as our master thespians might, this movie never lifts itself above direct to DVD material. The imagination that might be floating around in the script (midair gunfight, gunfight while having sex, all the Bugs/Fudd shit, cutting the umbilical cord off your newborn by, yes, shooting it) are handled with ape-like sensibilities and come to life on the screen with all the pizazz and visual flair of a Kevin Smith movie. The action scenes (pretty much the whole movie) are shot and staged so poorly it's confounding. It's laughable at the beginning, which could be taken as a sign of enjoyment, but by the time they jump from an airplane and start shooting at each other as they free fall towards earth's crust (defying all science and logic, but shit, what the hell), the fact that they make hardly any effort to seem like what's in front of you is not just a bunch of guys on wires in front of a green screen drains any enjoyment you might get from watching something as ridiculous as a mid-air gun battle. Same goes for the mid-intercourse gun battle, a version of which was done much better in Desperado. Not to mention the painful dialog throughout. Even if you're trying to be tongue-in-cheek, satirical or in some way skewer the genre you're at the same time trying to glorify, lame ass one liners the good guys says after shooting a bad guy circa 1985 are still lame ass one liners.
A much better version of what this movie is trying to do can be found in the move Crank. I cannot with a clear conscious recommend Crank to any discerning film goer, but it's inventiveness translates to the screen in a mesmerizing way due to mind-boggling set pieces shot in a fairly unique fashion. You can tell a whole lot of effort went into making Crank a fucked-up crazy-ass movie. Shoot 'Em Up would love to be considered fucked-up crazy-ass but falls squarely in annoying bullshit.
There really isn't any problem with the idea of stringing together a bunch of action scenes around a thin plot. I talked about this in our review of 3:10 to Yuma -- westerns are usually hung around some pretty thin plots. Both of these movies try to tack on hilariously (not good hilarious) lame, convoluted conspiracy plots onto the whole affair and it really stinks the movies up. It isn't necessary in either movie. With Aces you're piling on plot from the get go and then try to change it all around at the end for no good reason -- it was more than enough to try and wrap our head around it all at the beginning! In Shoot -- okay, you're movie's fucking called Shoot 'Em Up -- what the hell's with trying to make a conspiracy involving senators and shit? Yeah, you're trying to be cute by making the whole thing involve a gun control bill... I'm telling you, nobody watching a fucking movie called fuckin' Shoot 'Em Up is interested in some lame attempts at irony or sarcasm. Be true to yourself! Revenge, money, a dame or a broad, one of these things is all a good action movie needs. Remember when, in Die Hard, everyone thought there was some big conspiracy Hans was involved in and it turned out he was just robing the place for the money. That was awesome.