Gun Play

click to enlarge BARRELS OF FUN: Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen let their guns do the talking in Shoot 'Em Up. - New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema
BARRELS OF FUN: Paul Giamatti and Clive Owen let their guns do the talking in Shoot 'Em Up.

The iconic antihero of Shoot 'Em Up isn't constantly chomping on a carrot for nothing. Absurdly impervious to the laws of physics or social niceties, he's part Bugs Bunny and part man-without-a-name straight out of your favorite spaghetti western. And Shoot 'Em Up is nothing if not a Looney Tune of epic proportions, filled with outrageously kinetic action and stylized violence.

Too much is never, ever enough here, where the obvious influences are Tarantino and Rodriguez, and, even more significantly, the early John Woo bullet ballets that inspired them. Clive Owen stars as the nameless hero (known only by the alias "Smith") who comes to the aid of a pregnant woman in the film's opening moments, delivers her baby and spends the rest of the movie trading bullets with the legions of bad guys who, for nefarious reasons revealed in due time, want the infant dead. The baby's nothing but a Maguffin, though, and the "plot" a transparent excuse for a succession of gleefully over-the-top action scenes set to the soothing sounds of Motley Crüe, Motorhead and AC/DC.

The movie's hero leaps through space with both barrels blazing, engaging in gun battles while holding an infant in his arms (an obvious nod to Woo's Hard Boiled), fornicating and even parachuting. More bullets are expended here than in a film by Woo in his prime. It's all as bloody as it is ridiculous and mindless, but it's also an awful lot of fun.

Head bad guy Paul Giamatti makes a fine, frustrated Elmer Fudd to Owen's roguish Bugs, a hero who displays all the depth of a cartoon but still manages to be hugely entertaining. After all, how can you not love a guy who buys ammo with food stamps, shoots a henchman just for sporting a ponytail and severs an umbilical cord by pumping a bullet into it?

Shoot 'Em Up (R) Stars Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci and Daniel Pilon. Opens Sept. 7 at local theaters. 3.5 stars

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