Shoot 'Em Up
R3 - Hong Kong - Asia Video
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary and Noor Razzak (26th June 2008).
The Film

“My God…is this guy really that good or do we just really suck?”

"Shoot 'Em Up" is a film which people usually have strong opinions one way or the other on. On one hand it can be seen as a self-conscious satire of the John Woo style actioners, taking the precedent set by the "Transporter" films (2002-2008) a few steps further. On the other it can come across as too far in that direction, with the people involved screaming at everyone about how funny they are. It even strikes me that, depending on your mood when you see it, you could have different interpretations again. Now me, while the film does glide at times past its agreed set-up of ridiculous action into a whole new realm of nonsense, I find it a thrill ride that brings adrenaline and fun back to this genre. "xXx" (2002) tried such things with Vin Diesel operating some machinery or his car or something (I fell asleep) but this is the real deal here folks...Unless you think severing an umbilical cord with a bullet might not be your cup of tea.

Clive Owen is a man we only know as Smith. He’s just hanging around bus stops when a baby-sized problem gets dropped in his lap. And this baby appears to have two different groups chasing after it, one attempting to kill it and the other apparently trying to save it. Paul Giamatti (who is always such a pleasure to watch in anything even "Lady in the Water" (2006), which had nothing to do with pleasure) is the ground level leader of the group trying to execute the baby, while fielding calls from his nagging wife. It’s a hard knock life. Smith needs help keeping the baby alive amidst all the bullets, so he enlists a reluctant hooker (Monica Bellucci) who is…um…lactating…so she handles that side of the baby’s health. Giamatti, using his ex-FBI profiler abilities to the point of precognition, constantly tracks them down and a lot of inventive gunfights follow. Sometimes while on a plane. Sometimes while naked (best action movie sex scene ever) and sometimes while falling out of that aforementioned plane.

This movie was such a pleasant surprise for me. I’d held off on seeing for ages due to the mixed reviews I’d read and heard from my friends. I feared it’d fall on the wrong side of that ‘fun ridiculous action flick’. To many people it did but I’m not one of them. Of course, I’m a sucker for certain things and this film is packed with them. Even the soundtrack (which is brilliant) is mostly made up of songs that feature on my Top Rated playlist on my iPod (which is why it’s brilliant). So yeah, that makes me a little biased (my favourite song is used to lead into the end credits) but considering I’m a huge fan of fast and energetic music, well that is the right type for a movie like this.

Owen, fresh off of "Sin City" (2005) at this juncture, helps extend his action hero resume here playing a character referred to by Bellucci as ‘the angriest man I’ve ever met’. The guy just seems to have a problem with everything he lays his eyes on, from ponytails on aging hipsters to people slurping their tea to bad drivers. Just one more thing I can identify with there. Belucci backs him up superbly even though her role is essentially there so Owen isn’t speaking to himself the whole film. But she serves all her purposes, which is to be there, be good, and be hot. It’s a winning trifecta. Rounding out the ‘name’ cast (unless you consider the janitor from "Urban Legend" (1998) to be a name…ah, no offence, janitor), Giamatti just delightfully slimes his way through this role and that quality he has to improve any scene he appears in, no matter the film, is evident here as always.

This film is filled with silly, over the top moments, yes. Frankly I wish Hollywood made more films like this, instead of trying to convince us that the action movies aren’t supposed to be laughable. Like I said, you’ll probably hate it or love it. And if you’re a regular "Mythbusters" (2003-Present) watcher, you’ll recognise that 80% of things in this film are impossible…but that’s the rub. They’re not supposed to be. It’s not about reality; it’s about what reality would be like if it was much cooler. In any case, there’s a deleted scene where Owen is running down a dead end street and shoots bullet holes in the wall he’s running toward…so he can climb up it. That probably tells you everything you need to know. If they’d tried to make this a serious film with all this, it would have been laughable. Here, it’s laughable in the good way. Sure, it still has points where it stretches even the rules it makes up, but it’s hardly enough to downplay the enjoyment it provides everywhere else. It’s sitting proudly in my DVD collection. "Shoot 'Em Up" rocks the show from go to whoa.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic transfer is a solid effort. I'm sure that it's a port of the R1 transfer, just licensed to this distributor. The image is sharp and retains detail well, colors appear solid, although at times muted (which is aesthetic and not the fault of the transfer), blacks are deep but occasionally seem flat. The print is clean of dirt or compression related problems, I found no edge-enhancement or artefacts.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English DTS ES 6.1 discrete, English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. I chose to view the film with its DTS ES track and it, like the film itself, it was a wild ride. This track is active, aggressive and incredibly immersive. The mix is complex and bold with a plethora of aural distractions. The track pounds your speakers with all manner of action effect sounds and the film's metal soundtrack also adds a further layer of depth and range. As far as DTS ES tracks go this can be considered reference quality.
Optional subtitles are included in Traditional Chinese only.

Extras

Asia Video have included a bunch of extras such as an audio commentary, a documentary, a series of deleted/alternate scenes, some animatics and the film's theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film's writer/director Michael Davis. Davis enthusiastically spends the duration of the film entertaining the viewer with all manner of information and anecdotes about the production. He remains mostly screen-specific but breaks away occasionally to comment about the cast including Giamatti who was cast against type as the villain and he talks about his over-the-top performance that seems to work. He also comments on various scenes pointing out his favorite moments and explains his motivations for various elements such as character moments, action set-ups etc. Interestingly he comments on how there were lots of changes made to the script to service the action more, but in hindsight a few scenes that were removed were put back in because they provided an insight into the character such as the moment on the bus when Owen's character puts his sock on the baby's head to keep it warm. Overall Davis provides a wealth of information and manages to keep the track interesting and fresh, it's worth listening to whether you liked the film or not, and that's saying a lot.

9 deleted/alternative scenes are next and include optional audio commentary by director Michael Davis, in these tracks the director comments on the cut scenes and why they were omitted from the final film. These scenes can be viewed with a 'play all' option or individually, they include:

- "Gum Chewing" runs for 20 seconds, Smith shoots a guy for chewing gum in an annoying way.
- "Blood Trail" runs for 56 seconds, Hertz follows the blood trail to find Smith and the mother.
- "Hertz phones Wife" runs for 37 seconds, Hertz tells his wife that his business trip is going to keep him away for a bit longer.
- "Hickies in worse Places" runs for 35 seconds, Hertz pulls off his bullet proof vest to reveal some nasty bruises and then makes a joke about his wife leaving him hickies in worse places.
- "Name that Baby" runs for 26 seconds, Donna suggests they name the baby.
- "Crib Machine Gunning" runs for 19 seconds, Smith guns down a whole bunch of guys while holding the baby.
- "Wall Escape" runs for 1 minute 9 seconds, in order to escape from some henchmen Smith shoots at a wall creating holes that he uses to climb up the wall.
- "Longer Torture Scene" runs for 2 minutes 11 seconds, an extended version of the scene where Hertz tortures Smith.
- "Longer Epilogue Set Up" runs for 1 minute 16 seconds, a slightly extended ending sequence where Smith is in the ice cream shop.

Next up is "Ballet of Bullets - Making Shoot 'Em Up" which is a documentary in 5 parts that include:

- "Lock and Load" runs for 5 minutes 41 seconds and takes a look at the original pitch to the studio and how the director went about selling the concept to New Line, the director also comments on his Hong Kong action film influences and also breaks down the plot, characters and also plotting out the action using animatics which helped secure the financing from the studio.
- "Armed and Dangerous" runs or 8 minutes 58 seconds, takes a look at the casting of the film and getting to work with Owen, Giamatti and Bellucci. Plus takes a look at the tone of the film, looks at the motivations and sensibilities of the characters as the cast comment on their roles and on the wild ride that is working on this film.
- "Itchy Trigger Fingers" runs for 5 minutes 36 seconds, after we've heard about the pitch and the character we now get a chance to check out the various weapons used in the film. There were over 200 different guns used in the film as we get a close look at each of the weapons including the modification made to the Glock to include a thumb print recognition for the gun. There were many guns that were created for the film as well as existing weapons and new models. Like every action film that deals with dangerous elements like guns, the cast went through safety training among other things.
- "Safety's off" runs for 8 minutes 36 seconds, this clip takes a look at using a newborn baby for the filming, but there's only so much that you can do with a child on a film set both logically but also legally. For some of the more intense shots of action an animatronic newborn baby was made for the film as we get a closer look at these effects and how the animatronic baby and 'stunt baby's' were used. Various tricks were used to complete scenes that utilize various effects elements that are composited together to get the final shot. Also looks at the green screen work that was done for the film's skydiving climax,
- "Muzzle Flash" runs for 23 minutes 59 seconds, this takes a look at the overall production, including the filming and making an $80 million action film for half that price, including getting the action right, the logistics of the production and how to manage their time to get everything they want within the 55 day production schedule. We get a look at shooting on a combination of sets and locations, and what the locations add to the character and tone of the film. The action is broken down as we get a candid look behind-the-scenes of the filming among other things.

Next up are a series of animatics that can be viewed with optional audio commentary by writer/director Michael Davis, these clips were created by the director over several years. The script was written 7 years ago and in that time he made these animatics to plot out each of the action scenes but were also used to sell the film to the studio and secure financing. These clips can be viewed individually or with a 'Play all' option and include:

- "Introduction" runs for 18 seconds.
- "Animatic Trailer" runs for 49 seconds.
- "Title Ideas" runs for 1 minute.
- "Carrot Kill" runs for 12 seconds.
- "Opening Shootout" runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.
- "Oil Slide" runs for 33 seconds.
- "Rooftop Shootout" runs for 30 seconds.
- "Deleted Wall Escape" runs for 58 seconds.
- "Carousel Scene" runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.
- "Sex Shootout" runs for 37 seconds.
- "Loft Escape" runs for 2 minutes 52 seconds.
- "Road Shootout" runs for 3 minutes 16 seconds.
- "Warehouse" runs for 2 minutes 27 seconds.
- "Freefall Gunfight" runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.
- "Final Escape" runs for 25 seconds.
- "Epilogue" runs for 32 seconds.
- "Blood Experiment" runs for 22 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.

Packaging

This disc is packaged in an amaray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A

 


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